Authors: Joshua Grove
Text Copyright 2013 by Joshua G. Grove
Joshua Grove today at:
book is dedicated to my father. His passion for reading horror novels,
particularly Stephen King, is what gave birth to my own love of the genre.
Thanks, Dad, for introducing me to the seductive, literary world of horror and
Jena had been
waiting nearly two months for Nicholas to invite her to the Homecoming dance.
Being a junior in high school and barely sixteen, Jena had little experience in
the realm of romance. She knew enough, however, to recognize that Nicholas was
painfully shy around girls. She had no idea why. After all, Nicholas was by far
the hottest guy in the entire school. He had also just celebrated his
seventeenth birthday and was awarded early admission to attend Notre Dame in
the fall. A football scholarship, of course. He had his whole life ahead of
Two weeks before
the Homecoming Dance, Jena’s Kodak Moment finally arrived. Nicholas walked up
to her, shuffling his feet and avoiding eye contact. An ethereal smile
brightened her face. There is no masking teenage joy.
Jena,” Nicholas stuttered. He nervously pushed a hand through his dirty blonde,
curly hair. “Homecoming is a few weeks away and, well…”
interrupted. She immediately wanted to slap herself on the forehead for jumping
the gun. What if he wasn’t actually asking her to this soirée? What reasons had
he given in the past few months to make her think they were even dating? All
they had done was study together and awkwardly stare at each other.
answer transformed his demeanor.
Nicholas exclaimed. Excitement seemed to radiate from him, especially from his
bright blue eyes. He slammed his fist against a locker and then rocked his
trademark touchdown dance. He kissed her cheek and then excused himself by
saying he was late for class. Jena didn’t care. He could have said he was on
his way to invite fourteen other girls to be his date. Nicholas Collins had
to the dance. Jena Marsh, the uncool, overachieving nerd who until
recently would rather have her nose in a book than sitting in the stands
gawking at the jocks.
Although it felt
like months to Jena, the festivities of Homecoming arrived quickly. She found
herself on the arm of the star quarterback, taking top billing in the school’s
unofficial gossip columns. It was a picture perfect night. The sky was
spectacularly lit by a bright Hunter’s Moon, full and majestic. The Minnesota
weather was unusually warm for late October, which only seemed to add to the
allure of the ambiance. Nicholas arrived to escort her to their teenage rite of
passage in his new, black, hardtop Mustang convertible. As is customary for the
occasion, he treated Jena to an amazingly delicious – and expensive – three
course meal at a local fancy-shmancy restaurant.
epic buildup, the dance itself was somewhat boring and uneventful. In truth,
the only interesting moments were provided by the class clowns with a few of their
ridiculous antics. But Jena did not view this as anticlimactic, nor did it put
a damper on her joy. Nicholas was a gentleman the entire evening, almost to a
fault. But it was okay; she didn’t mind one bit.
The happy, newest
couple of Taylor’s Landing High School left at 10:30pm, the whole night ahead
of them. Well, not really, but it seemed that way. Their curfew was the stroke
of midnight, imposed by the tyranny of the parents. It was quite fitting; after
feel like Cinderella gone to the ball. Jena argued with
herself about whether or not she should be forward with Nicholas. Would he kiss
her? Should she kiss him? Sure, it had been a great night. But aside from some
scattered slow dances, he had barely touched her.
“So I’m thinking
it’s time for us to maybe hang out alone for a while,” Nicholas suggested as
they got in the car and headed into their brave new world. Naturally, Jena
pushed aside her inner struggles and decided to follow his lead. But after fifteen
minutes of driving, taking back roads that led deeper into the woods, she
wasn’t exactly sure where his leading would – well, lead.
“I didn’t even
know there were roads back here,” Jena said, trying to ease the growing tension
in her body.
sorts of things back here that might surprise you,” Nicholas said with a grin.
He took his hand from the gearshift and clumsily caressed her knee.
“Oh,” was all
she could manage to say. Her body was aching for him, but she hadn’t even had
her first kiss. She wasn’t about to just give him her virginity simply because
it was his senior Homecoming night. As Nicholas was focusing his attention on
Jena, she turned away from him with a quiet sigh and glanced at the road. What
she saw startled her.
warned Nicholas. About thirty yards in front of them, illuminated only by the
headlights and the moon, a shadow was moving toward them. It appeared to have
the shape of a tall man. Fortunately, Nicholas was driving at a leisurely pace.
He had plenty of time to slow down before getting dangerously close to a
“What kind of
douche just walks in the middle of the road?” Nicholas grumbled loudly, hoping
that with the top down on the Mustang the man would hear him. “Pedestrian
rights my ass,” he complained. He exchanged puzzled expressions with Jena, and
then turned his attention back to the road. He nearly lost his dinner when he
realized that the distance between them and the stranger had been cut in half.
“Did you speed
up?” Jena asked.
answered. “At least I don’t think so. What should I do? Should I stop?”
stop!” she insisted.
It was then that
the tall figure did something neither of them expected. With a level of grace
that was anything but human, he leapt into the air. Not knowing how to respond,
Nicholas hit the brakes and nearly stopped the car. The shadow sailed over the Mustang,
clearing it by at least fifteen feet. After landing behind the car, Nicholas
sped up to get away.
“What the hell?”
Nicholas said, more to himself than to Jena.
“Thank God it
didn’t land in the car,” Jena answered.
“Don’t you mean
didn’t land in the car?” Nicholas asked, swallowing hard.
“No, I mean
can jump like that,” Jena said flatly. “Uh, it might be in our
best interest to drive a little faster, don’t you think?”
asked. “I can’t imagine…” but he stopped midsentence when he looked in his
rearview mirror. What he saw made the hair on the back of his neck stand at
was now sprinting faster, and quickly gaining on them.
Nicholas checked his speedometer: 37mph. That didn’t seem fast enough.
on?” Jena asked, but then answered her own question with a stifled cry when she
saw the shadow chasing them. “I told you to go faster!” she urged Nicholas.
“I am!” he
responded. He confirmed his speed again: 57mph. He monitored their stalker’s
progress. Although a little further behind, it was still within sight.
or what -
run that fast?
he wondered. Panic pricked his spine, like a million pins
figure changed direction like a chaotic wind, bounding from the road and into
the dark cover of the woods.
still reeling from the action in the rearview mirror when he heard Jena’s
bloodcurdling scream. He glanced at her, noticing that she was horrified by
whatever she was seeing. He almost didn’t want to look. For a brief instant,
Nicholas considered just closing his eyes and slamming on the breaks. But if he
did that then whatever was out there would be on top of them in seconds.
When he looked
again to the road, he realized he didn’t have to slam on the breaks at all. The
dark figure that had been chasing them was
on top of them. It
was crouched on the hood of the car.
stunned by his own sense of dread. His dual grip on the steering wheel and
gearshift were so tight he thought his hands might bleed. Staring back at him
was something he could only describe as terror incarnate. One thing was
certain: it was
human. Its legs comprised nearly two-thirds of its
eight foot body, and were dramatically bent at the knees. It reminded Nicholas
of a praying mantis. That, in a word, was creepy enough. But it paled in
comparison to its face. It was angular and astonishingly thin, the nose arched
and coming to a point several inches from its face. Its skin was pale green,
like it was nauseous and needed to vomit. Nicholas had no doubt that it could
peck his head off like a deranged woodpecker. Between the sharpened beak-like
nose and having to drive, Nicholas didn’t have much of an opportunity to study
any other features. Besides, he had seen more than enough. Those images were
already branded into his memory. Nicholas knew he had to act, and act quickly –
or he and Jena would soon be dead.
enough to recognize the intersection ahead of them, Nicholas turned the wheel
to the right as hard as he could. He prayed – with very little conviction –
that the creature would be thrown from the car. But the Mustang was going too
fast for it to be able to handle the gravity of that turn. Just as Nicholas and
Jena entered into what seemed like The Twilight Zone, the Mustang entered into
everything seemed to happen in slow motion. She glanced at Nicholas and
wondered if even the Jaws of Life could pry his hands from the wheel. Her
attention, however, kept shifting back to the monster on the hood of the car.
There, on the other side of the glass, was most definitely the harbinger of
Death. Although covered in shadow, one feature was undeniable: those unnerving,
soulless black eyes. When Jena peered into its eyes, she felt her stomach churn
and her blood run cold.
Jena didn’t even
realize that the car had been spinning. In reality, it made five revolutions.
But in the Twilight Zone, time stood still and the earth ceased to rotate. When
the Mustang abruptly came to a screeching halt, the engine died. The black-eyed
demon smiled before jumping from the hood and perched on a street sign not ten feet
from them. His feet curled at unnatural angles as it gripped the green metal.
“What is that
thing, Nicholas?” Jena whimpered. She felt chills as she watched it hovering
over them. What could it possibly want from them?
“I don’t know,
Jena,” he said as he tried to revive the Mustang. The engine was not
it,” Jena whispered harshly. “If you do, we’re both dead.”
uncomfortably, playing with his seatbelt. “Don’t move. I’m going to put the top
the button, praying that the enormous birdman on the sign didn’t decide to join
them in the car. He didn’t, and once the top was up, both teenagers quickly
took out their cellphones.
“Goddammit!” he bellowed.
Jena echoed. She sounded out of breath. “Start the car! Start the car!”
The Mustang was having none of it.
“Would you stop
saying that?” she demanded.
“What, are you
religious?” he asked, his expression surprised and confused.
she retorted. “Just do something! Where are we?”
“Uh, not sure,”
he said. They both looked up to the perched birdman. “Can’t see the name of the
road. The damn thing’s feet – or, uh, claws – they’re covering it.”
As if cued by
Nicholas’ words, the creature slowly scraped its talons against the letters on
the sign, sounding like nails on a chalkboard. Each screeching movement
revealed a new letter, like a demonic spinoff of Wheel of Fortune. Finally, it
was clear. Jena leaned forward to get a better look.
Jena murmured. She thought for a moment, putting her face in her hands. “Oh,
using the Lord’s name in vain?” Nicholas asked, confused. “Welsh Road? So
Road,” Jena said a second time.
At that moment,
the significance – and ghoulish history – of Welsh Road flooded his memory.
Just as she
finished speaking, the birdman jumped from the sign and landed on top of the
car with a
Jena wondered how a beast of that size didn’t at least
make a dent on the hardtop. She was in awe of its ability to soar through the
air, despite its bulk.
“Wow, is that the only word in your repertoire?”
Criticism? Now?” Nicholas pushed back. He tried to turn the car on again, but
with no luck. They sat in the car for several more seconds, waiting for the
creature to strike.
Jena studied the
tree line outside her window. The pines swayed back and forth in the wind, as
if laughing at her. She expected an army of hellhounds to materialize from
behind the small bushes that guarded the entrance to the woods.
look alive,” she observed gravely.
helpful, Jena,” Nicholas snapped.