"Come out, come out wherever you are," Anna heard as she ran from the whispering voice in the darkness.
On her way home from a party, lights and sirens flashed in the distance. As she neared she was diverted from the main road, following the detour signs. "Oh great," she sighed as her tires left the smooth paved road and her car skidded on the gravel of the detoured path. She slowed immediately, not wanting to be in the same situation as the vehicles she'd seen in the distance.
The gravel road was one much less traveled on ordinary nights, but especially on Halloween. A single-lane road, wicked looking trees diverted many motorists. The road was known as Demon Drive as it passed through several graveyards before joining the main road several miles ahead.
Anna paid attention to the road, as it curved then straightened, not wanting to end up a lost soul on a deserted journey, another headstone in the already cramped cemetery. Thinking she should turn her car around before she gets to the section of the road where the tree limbs just about hug your vehicle because they are so close to the dirt shoulder, she shifts gears, but her car remains moving straight ahead. Pleading, begging her car to not do this to her on such a night as this and at this late hour she tries it a second time. Her car backs slowly then instantly shifts on its on back into drive.
In a panic now she recalled the horror stories of this road and the many lives it took over the years.
The headlights of her car danced off the trunks and branches of the trees lining either side of the road. The shadows cast eerie shapes in front of her, causing her heart to beat furiously in her chest. She kept a steady speed on the gravel road, her eyes straight ahead and both hands on the wheel.
A sigh of relief involuntarily escaped her lips as she saw what looked like a traffic light up ahead. Her headlights caught the reflective orange of the detour sign and her foot instinctively pressed down on the accelerator.
As she neared the intersection, the lights she'd thought were traffic lights were the hazard lights of another vehicle on the side of the road. She tightened her grip on the steering wheel, feeling her tires get caught in a mound of sand and dirt, causing the rear end to swerve slightly.
Anna refused to stop to help the stranded motorist or even slow down as she passed. She felt an eerie chill run down her spine as she passed, noting that the vehicle on the side of the road was an old pick-up truck. She focused her eyes on the road in front of her. The chill she'd felt when she passed the truck returned and her grip tightened even more on her steering wheel, turning her knuckles pure white.
"You can run but you can't hide," she heard the voice whisper in her ear.
The voice terrified her and to block the sounds, she turned her radio to her favorite pop station. Perspiration covered her hairline and upper lip as well as her palms. As she approached another intersection, she looked around, trying to find her way back to the main road. Looking in her rearview mirror, she saw nothing but blackness. As she drove, the low hanging branches of the trees scraped the sides and roof of her car, adding to the fear she already felt.
Just as she put her foot down on the accelerator, she heard a clunking sound on the roof of the car. She stomped harder on the accelerator and heard a scraping noise from above. When she looked in her rearview mirror, she saw nothing. She felt her heart beat increase even more and she wondered what had just happened.
Thinking it was just a falling branch; she took a deep breath and gripped the steering wheel tightly as she continued to gaze out her rearview mirror.
"Where did that truck go? Am I driving around in circles?" she said aloud to herself, noting that the trees around her looked the same as the trees she saw when she first turned onto this road.
She continued to look out her side windows at her surroundings. When she turned her gaze to the road again, she slammed on the brakes, skidding to a stop just inches from a man clad in a flannel shirt and dirty, dingy blue jeans. He was tall and muscular and she couldn't see his face through the shadows cast upon him from her headlights.
"Can you help me please?" the man asked after he walked to her window and tapped gently to get her attention.
He had her full attention, but she was very hesitant of looking him in the eye. She didn't answer him; she just started to pull away. When she glanced in her rearview mirror she saw the man fall to his knees, hands over his face, then outreaching to the heavens.
Is he really in need of help? she wondered as she slowly drove off. If it were me I would hope he would turn around to help. He didn't look that harmful, but again I didn't see a vehicle either. The thoughts ran through her head as she stared in her mirror.
"I told you, you can't hide," the voice whispered once again; this time making her reconsider picking up that stranger in the road, if for nothing else but protection. Anna shifted to reverse, backed the car up slowly and stopped beside the stranger. "Get in. Where are you headed?"
The man didn't answer her with anything more than a smile as he situated himself in the passenger seat. He glanced out the window and Anna thought she saw him shudder before he turned his gaze out the windshield.
She put the car in drive and began to pull away slowly. "Where are you headed?" she asked again.
"Anywhere away from here," the man replied, keeping his gaze fixed out the windshield.
"I'm fine with that. Can you help me get back to the main road?"
"Lady, you're on the main road. What are you doing out here anyway? Do you live around here?"
A chill flooded through Anna's body once more at what the man had just told her. If she was on the main road, how does she get back to where she started?
"I was coming home from a Halloween party and I ran into a roadblock. I followed the detour signs and ended up here. I don't live around here."
"Well, you picked a hell of a night to get lost. Don't you know the stories about this stretch of road?"
"Yes, I've heard the stories," Anna replied quietly. "Can you get me back to civilization?"
"As long as you promise you won't scream if anything weird happens. I can't handle it when a woman screams."
"I can't make a promise like that," she said. "I'm ready to scream now."
"Turn right when you get to the next intersection," the man replied.
Anna nodded in reply, glancing over at him occasionally while still concentrating on the road. He wasn't devastatingly handsome, but he wasn't unpleasant to look at either. He was just average. He had short brown hair, a nose slightly larger than average, looking as though it had been broken at least once in his life.
She didn't notice the color of his eyes when she looked at him earlier and she'd guess he stood around six foot tall. He had a shadow of beard stubble and a small scar on his left cheek near his nose.
She blushed when he turned to look at her and he smiled softly. "My name's Bryce by the way," he said, turning his eyes back to the road.
"I'm Anna," she replied quietly. "Nice to meet you Bryce."
"You're gonna come to a fork in the road up ahead, take it to the right, Anna. That should lead you back to the main highway."
"Okay," she replied, fidgeting nervously in her seat.
There was an awkward silence between them and Anna wondered how Bryce had come to be out here all alone. She wondered if that truck she saw was his, then remembered that it vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Finally deciding she wanted to know more, she took a deep breath then gathered her thoughts before she spoke.
"So what brings you out here? Do you live around here?" she repeated his questions back to him.
Bryce tensed when Anna asked her questions. How does he explain what he was doing out here? How does he tell her the terrifying things he saw? He ran his hands through his hair, sighing heavily.
"Bryce?" she asked.
"Yeah," he replied quietly.
"What are you doing out here? Do you live around here?" she repeated.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Bryce said quietly, still not making eye contact with her.
Anna stopped the car and slammed it into park. "Look, Bryce, I don't know you at all. I picked you up because frankly, I'm scared shitless out here alone. Taking that tone of voice with me just adds to the already uneasy feeling I have. I've heard the stories; I've read the headlines about what happens out here. Anything you tell me can help both of us survive this night." The irritation in her voice was apparent, causing Bryce to stiffen even more.
"What stories have you heard?" he asked, turning to face her, his amber eyes boring into her brown ones. "Tell me because I'd like to know if it's as terrifying as what I've seen."
"I've heard of a winged lizard that attacks people."
"That's all you've heard?"
"In a nutshell, yes."
"That part is true. It is a winged lizard, but -- it's more than that, too."
"Go on," she replied.
"Start driving again, get us the hell out of here and I will tell you."
Anna put the car in drive and stepped on the accelerator, hearing her wheels spin under the gravel before they found purchase and the car jerked forward.
"I was out here hunting with a friend early this morning," Bryce started. "We'd set up a small camp in a clearing about 200 feet from the road. We were setting up the deer blind when we first saw it, just before sunrise. The thing was huge, probably had a wingspan of 20 feet. It flew swiftly and circled us a few times before it swooped down and picked up my friend Dyann. I got a good look at it and it's fangs hung well over it's lower jaw, probably six or eight inches."
"As it lifted Dyann off the ground, it swung her up and into its mouth. It bit down on her waist and split her in two. I stood there watching my friend get eaten alive by this creature. As it consumed the first half of Dyann, it circled again, picked up the other half and swallowed it in one bite. When I was finally able to run, I took off in the opposite direction of where the road was and the creature followed me."
"I found a small cave and hid in there. Much to my surprise, the creature landed in front of the cave and turned into a human right before my eyes. He entered the cave and I could see his fangs were still protruding from his mouth, traces of Dyann's blood still dripping off."
When Bryce stopped speaking, Anna glanced over at him and saw that he was ghostly white. His eyes were wide with fear and she could see him trembling. She took his hand and held it tightly, for her own comfort as well as his. Bryce squeezed her hand tightly, enjoying the small feeling of comfort from her.
"The man that stood before me in the cave wasn't much taller than me. As he approached, his fangs diminished until they were nothing more than regular teeth. He had blood in the corners of his mouth and his eyes glowed an eerie red. He told me that I was lucky to have chosen that cave to hide in. It was part of a sacred Indian burial ground and he could not attack while he was within its boundaries."
"As he turned to leave, he warned me again to stay in the cave, it was what was best for me. As he left the cave, he turned into the creature once more and flew away. I stood there, unable to move my feet. I looked around the cave and saw there was nothing there, no food, no water, nothing. I knew I couldn't stay there forever, I'd starve or die of thirst."
"I propped myself against a rock in one corner and fell asleep until nightfall. When I woke up, I immediately left the cave and looked for the creature. When I didn't see it, I started back toward the road. Just as I reached our campsite, I heard a noise overhead. When I looked up, I saw those same eerie red glowing eyes gazing down at me. The creature was circling again."
"I started running toward the road and tripped on a fallen branch. The creature swooped down and I managed to roll out of the way. When I brought myself to my feet, I heard an ear-splitting screech then the creature disappeared. I wandered for about an hour before you picked me up."
Anna had reached the fork in the road and followed it to the right as Bryce instructed. She could see the lights of the city in the distance and breathed a sigh of relief that they were almost to the highway.
"I'm sorry about your friend, Bryce," she said, not really knowing what else to say.
"Thank you, Anna."
"We're almost out of here," she said, pointing to the lights ahead.
Anna relaxed and felt Bryce's grip loosen on her hand.
"Turn right up here!" Bryce said as he saw them approach another intersection.
"But it looks like the freeway is straight ahead," Anna replied.
"Just do it!" he barked, the sound of his voice sending a chill down Anna's spine.
She jerked harshly on the wheel, causing the car to skid around the corner. Anna wasn't paying attention to the curves in the road; she was more interested in what was happening with Bryce. His voice sounded different to her, igniting the fear she'd felt when he was telling his story. His grip on her hand tightened and he kept his eyes focused straight ahead. She glanced over at him to see his eyes glowing an eerie red.
She tried to pull her hand from his, but he held it tightly. As she turned her attention back to the road, she saw she was heading straight for a tree. She jerked the wheel hard to the left, causing the back end of the car to swerve and slam into the tree.
"ANNA!" Bryce's voice echoed in her head as blackness consumed her.
"Anna! Wake up! Anna!" Bryce shouted, shaking her gently.
"No! Get away from me!" Anna screamed, kicking her feet and slapping Bryce away from her.
"Anna! Wake up!" he shouted again.
Her hands and feet continued to thrash about as she woke up and became aware of her surroundings, knocking Bryce to the floor. "Where am I?" she asked. "What happened?"
"You were having a nightmare, Anna," Bryce replied. "Are you okay?"
"Y -- yes, I'm fine," she said, feeling her heartbeat slowly return to normal. "Bryce?"
"Yeah," he said, taking her hand and squeezing it gently.
"H -- How do you know me?"
"Jessie introduced us," he said. "You said you weren't feeling well so she told you to come in here and lie down."
Anna looked around and saw that she was still at her friend Jessie's Halloween party. She was in the den, stretched out on the small couch in the corner, a large hand made afghan pulled up around her.
"Oh God!" she cried, bringing one hand to up to cover her mouth. "It was awful, Bryce."
"What was awful?" he asked, pulling a chair up beside the couch.