The waitress sat the family in a booth near the kitchen. A cigarette mixed its fumes with the deep fryer’s, the smoke and grease stink making the boy feel drowsy. The fear of the events on the road were diminished by the promise of restaurant food and his father’s temporary repair of the car’s bumper.
The boy’s mother tried in vain to check friends’ posts on her phone, but she could only get spotty reception, and she pouted with each click of her fresh, white nails on the screen. The boy munched on french fries slathered in warm ketchup, and the boy’s father drank a beer away from his family, next to two bikers sitting at the bar.
“Must be the springtime air that got those kids out. I’d just let it go.” A tall, goateed man with leather chapped jeans and neatly cut, white hair stared into his beer.
“If I could find out where they lived, I’d get their parents to pay for the damages. They have to live around here. I mean, shit, they’re on old timey bikes.”
The other biker at the bar, a red, round man with a friendly voice, echoed his friend’s suggestion. “It’s dark, now. Best just leave them be and get your car fixed when you get home.” The heavyset biker pursed in lips and nodded at the boy’s father.
A sandpaper voice croaked from the kitchen window behind the bar. “Es ist April dreisig.”
The strained, geriatric throat wheezed the words again until the man, unsure if they were meant for him, looked up at the window. “Es ist April dreisig, dummkopf!” A stifled cough peppered the sounds of meat frying on a griddle.
“That’ll do, Dad.” The waitress, not young herself, waved off the old man behind the window and smiled at the boy’s father. “Sorry. Daddy gets to talking crazy in German sometimes. He makes a good burger, anyhow. Y’all want another beer?”
The boy’s father stared unfocused and shook his head. “No. I’m fine.” He walked back to the table where his wife and son sat disengaged from one another. While the family ate, the bikers moved to a long table at the end of the restaurant. Most looked like weekend warriors, and they all wore patches of a deer head that looked more at home on the cover of a Field & Stream magazine. As each one approached the table, they stopped talking, locked forearms and crossed their chests with their free hand, then went back to low-voiced chatter and deep belly laughs.
The family finished their meal, with much of the conversation revolving around the possible means to have the car repaired, and a sharp but quieter, “They wouldn’t have said to leave it alone if it was one of their damn bikes.”
After the boy’s father decided that the car was able to make the long drive home, the family left the smoke and society of the Burgers & Beer. The lights of the restaurant dwindled in the rearview mirror as the family made their way home. The boy’s anxiety rose with the car ride, and he tried to will himself sleepy. The radio reception was staticky, so the tire hum worked it’s drowsy hypnosis much quicker.
The boy was awakened with the incredulous swear from his father. “Son on a bitch, there they are!” Heading toward the car in the same lane were the three children.
The boy’s mother offered only mild protest. “Come on, let’s just get home. It’s going to be late when we get back.”
“No, I’ve got their dirty, little asses this time.”
“Must be the springtime air that got those kids out.
The man slowed the car, and the children approached at the same, steady pace as before. As the man brought the car to a stop, the children passed, and the boy could see their faces more clearly. The flesh on each of the three was cut all the way around the front of their faces, as if the skin of each face was just a mask covering another face beneath. The area around the face was pink and meaty, like old, spoiled hamburger. The girl riding the back of the fruit cart stared at the boy inside the car as they passed with no movement on her face except for black eyes in the holes of her skin mask, and the boy felt a trickle of pee spot his underwear.
The man got out of the car and yelled for the children to stop. They continued their pedalling, and the girl tossed an apple to the boy on the bicycle, who sent the hard Gala flying, hitting the man hard on the ear. The boy’s father winced, and began to run after the children. The girl handed a ripe cantaloupe to the boy on the bicycle, and the large melon just missed the man’s head at a velocity that frightened the boy’s father. He got into the car and put it in gear with shaking hands. He promised the boy’s mother that he would call the police as soon as they got home.
The family rode in silence, unwilling to stoke the man’s anger any further. Shaken and tired, the mother, father, and son reached a silent agreement of comfortable, quiet solitude.
As the car made it’s way down the night blackened country road, a grapefruit smashed like a meteor a few yards in front of the driver’s side tires. The man marveled at the strength and accuracy of throw as the boy’s mother began recording a video.
While the parents argued over who was least helpful in a crisis, the boy saw the three children riding inexplicably toward the car, in the same direction they had previously passed the family car just minutes before, and his bottom lip turned down and began to shake to ready the rest of his face for tears.
“There is absolutely no way!” The man’s voice rose, and it made the boy more afraid at his father’s open display of fear.
The boy’s mother began talking quickly. “They must have taken a loop around, right? I mean that’s the only way, right? They must have sped up and made a circle. Right? Am I right?”
As the children approached to pass a second time the boy on the bicycle was already armed with a large melon. When the trio was just in front of the family’s car, the boy hurled the melon, and it smashed the side of the bumper that held it to the car. The front piece of the vehicle hit the ground, scraped an arc in sparks, and tore itself loose. The man tried to avoid running over the bumper, and the car began to fishtail.
The car skidded off the road. The man maneuvered the steering wheel in the quick way that reminded the boy of a ship’s captain, but managed to regained control enough to steer back onto the street.
“Honey, please don’t stop,” the boy’s mother pleaded while still recording the video. “I’m not. Just put that thing away, ok? We might need the battery later.”
The boy’s mother sniffed and turned off the phone but still clutched it in her lap for security. After a drive of nearly ten minutes, a car’s headlights came into view, and a loud pickup truck raced past. What would have normally been an irritant to the boy’s father was a welcomed sign that there were people nearby. They needed the reminder of other people, people who were not in their family and that were not the three, skin-masked children. The boy did not look at his mother and father, but fixed his eyes on the blur of trees in the dark. He was afraid of and for his parents, but he was more afraid of the children. The children did not come.
About The Author
Scott Allen Young is a long time consumer and a more recent producer of works of horror fiction. Comfortable either in relaxing with a Stuart Gordon movie or reading Joe Lansdale, Scott Allen Young also enjoys telling his own stories of monsters and the macabre with a fan’s appreciation for the disturbing things that bump around inside our own heads.
Scott is a native of Houston, Texas where he lives with his wife, son, and a fleet of pets.