The car rolled by at a painfully slow pace. Every inch felt eternal like a runner headed for that last stretch that seems to widen with each long legged stride. Rocks lost under the tires cracked with each roll. It slowed as it came to the split road. Left or right? The map said right, but Ivor was sure the town was down the left. Now they would know, though did it matter? Still time wickedly churned by. Four bodies laid belly down holding their breath for fear that she or he or whoever it was would discover and turn them into another pile of soaked towels stuffed into a trunk. Ivor strained to make out the driver. Brown squinting eyes on a slightly tilted head, yet it was useless. The fading light casting deep shadows on everything combined with his own fading vision made the driver seem nothing more than a dark blob. Nellie, who had better vision, could see the figure much better. She strained a bit to focus her vision to mentally sketch every detail she could grasp: black hair, no it’s a hood, but just as a slit in the trees gave way to some light that hit the figure, a thin legged body crept up to Nellie. An unexpected visitor at the most improper time to rattle more the chaos of the moment. The critter eased its way over the brown and orange leaves slowly lifting each hair covered leg with such elegance. Its many eyes dove into Nellie’s and her heart slowed allowing her to feel each pound radiate through her veins. The fat body hung below its eight dancing legs. Of course she was frightened of whatever that figure was in the car, but this, this beast was thirty feet closer than that figure. This monstrous creature was approaching the very circle of her most treasured personal space. God help me! God? God had died in November. Yet his existence managed to return to Nellie as she came face to face with her most profound fear. Well, at least then it was. She couldn’t look away. That would be worse. She wouldn’t know where it crawled to until she’d feel it on her hand or twirling in her hair, but the more she stared at those glossy black eyes, the sicker she felt. She felt legs, dozens, hundreds of them crawling down her back and up her pants. Don’t scream! Don’t scream! Don’t— The cry rang through Nellie’s ears and shook through the forest trees. Tires screeched and the yellow door flung open with a force that thundered the floor. Ruthie threw herself back out from behind the bush. She lost balance and fell to her back. They were discovered. Nellie and Ivor’s eyes met, just long enough for a butterfly somewhere in the forest to flap its vibrant wings fifteen times. There was no need for words, they already knew what was going to happen. Nellie would run as fast as she could with the kids, and Ivor, brave Ivor, poor Ivor, would stay and buy his family whatever time he could endure. Surely he could fight off an old lady. If it was an old lady. Nellie grabbed Finn by the arm and swung his small premature body onto her chest. She looked at Ruthie who had found her way to her feet.
“What about Pa!” Ruthie looked back at Ivor. He was standing there looking back and forth between the car and his family who trying to get away.
“But why isn’t –”
“Run!” Nellie roared with a yank to Ruthie’s arm.
Their feet rustled through the fallen red leaves as they weaved through the forest. Nellie was careful to not run in any other direction than straight. If Ivor got away, he will get away, he would find her by simply going straight. What if he doesn’t get away? Stop Nellie! Just run, run, run, run!
Their breath heavy with panic and exhaustion warmed their faces. Fifty yards, one hundred yards, five hundred yards then Nellie stopped. Her arms gave out and Finn dropped to the floor. His round cheeks with white trails of tears through dirt quivered. He didn’t understand why Pa had to stay behind or why they were running. He didn’t understand why they weren’t at the house playing like they were told they would be. This was no fun, but he didn’t dare complain right now. He saw how Mommy had yelled at Ruthie for not running. He turned to look at her. Anger consumed her face. Her dry lips pursed together letting out heavy pants of air through her nose. She wanted to yell at Mommy for leaving Pa. She wanted to cry, but that enraged her more. She hadn’t cried since that day in November. Not even when Toby dashed in front of her bike and she fell to the sidewalk. Her elbow was bruised for two weeks and it hurt to sleep or even pull a shirt over her head, but she didn’t cry. Not even when Ari flicked a pencil at her face while the teacher wrote on the board and everyone laughed at her did she cry. Nothing was worth crying anymore.
Nellie put her hands on her knees as she leaned against the side of a tree. Vines of guilt crept up her legs. The feeling tightened around her chest and tugged at her neck. She had left Ivor. She actually left him, alone. Intrusive thoughts of Ivor’s bare chest being ripped to shreds by a bloody knife raided her mind. The visual was so clear in her head, her stomach turned. Ivor! Fingers trembling, she covered her mouth and turned away from the kids. How could she look at them in the face after leaving their father to be beaten or murdered by some lunatic. Now here she was in the middle of an unfamiliar forest with dusk at it’s peak. No phone, empty food wrappers crunched in their pockets, no shelter from the cold, no help. If the killer didn’t get them, a wolf or bear would surely fill their bellies with their defenseless bones.
With curled fist and heels firmly dug into the moist ground, Ivor stood waiting for the dark figure to emerge from the car. He rallied himself up. He was strong, he had done enough fighting in his day. Unless they had a gun. Then what?
Nellie’s red jacket was out of sight among the trees within two eternal minutes. Fog from dusk engulfed their shrinking figures. Yet, the dark one in the car hadn’t moved. The door was wide open, but there was no movement, and Ivor grew impatient of the unknown. Another minute stroke by and still, the figure sat still, waiting. Ivor’s heart began to pump louder. The uncertainty driving him mad with each tick coming from his left wrist. He didn’t dare look down, his eyes were fixed on the car and the shadow that formed the figure behind the wheel. A bird fluttered by up above in a tree to his right. The crackle of the branch and leaves where it flew from only made the silence of the moment worse. Still more seconds ticked by. Each slower than the last.
“What the fuck do you want!” Ivor shocked himself at his outburst.
Ivor took a step backward. Maybe he should have ran with Nellie and the kids. This person was obviously playing a stupid joke. If it was a real killer they would have attacked already, not just wait in the car like an idiot. He took another step backward. He was going to run. He’d have a head start and the car couldn’t drive through the trees. He peeled his foot off the ground for another step, when the driver’s leg emerged from the open door. A long thin leg it was. Ivor froze still, eyes fixated on the seductive silhouette. The body slithered out of the car
with suave movement like liquid spilling over the rim of a cup. She was all woman and Ivor shamelessly stared as she began to walk towards him. He became hypnotized by the sensual movement of her bare legs. Her skin was fragments of heaven pressed into powder. The arches of her feet curled slowly with each glide towards him. She wore a black cloak that dropped down just above her knees. Two long crowds of glistening pale hair fell out of the hood and feathered at the ends of her hips. The woman was now about ten feet from Ivor. The cloak hugged her waist and opened just slightly between her breast teasing the eye left guessing whether she had clothes underneath or not, yet her head was still down and away from Ivor’s dumbfounded view. Eight feet from Ivor, she stopped.
Ivor blinked and regained his thoughts. She was strange, intimidating, and attractive.
“Please, just, just leave us alone,” he stuttered.
She was still as stone. Silent. Ivor could hear the faint ticks coming from his left hand. One, two, three, four, and then a low hiss started. The woman cocked her head to the right and the hiss grew louder. She took a step forward and Ivor followed with a step back. She cocked her head back and went for another step when the sound of a bullet broke the air and whizzed by his shoulder striking her just below her neck. Her body caved in and was thrusted back a few feet. What the hell! The force of the hit only affected her for a second or two and she started walking back toward Ivor. Then multiple shots went off. Ivor counted 4, but there must have been more. Her body shook with each strike till she collapsed to the floor. Ivor had coward to the floor with his arms over his head. When the shots had ended, her body lay motionless on the floor. Her hair covered her face and her skin suddenly lost its vibrant seductive glow. Ivor, now on his hands and knees, felt sick with confusion. He had never seen anyone killed before and whatever food he had ate from the pantry made its way up his throat and out onto the dead leaves below him. The taste of acid soaked chips filled his mouth. He gagged at the bitter smell below him. What the hell just happened?
Heavy running approached him from behind. The ground pounded with a pair of thick boots and more vomit spewed from his mouth. He lifted his head in the direction of the running, but now his vision blurred. He rubbed his eyes with two of his fingers trying to clear his head. The boots came to a stop next to him.
“Don’t hurt me,”the words barely rolled of his lips when he saw the blurred boot raise off the ground and come down on his head. A split moment of pain, then darkness.
He came to for a moment only to feel the back of his head brushing through dirt and leaves then again darkness.
Chapter 4 coming October 15, 2017