“Holy, fuck!” Bradley bellowed. “Okay, it’s time to go.”
There were no complaints from Shana. She simply jumped up and started bagging whatever food was left. Bradley rolled up the blanket and the two began hurrying toward the car. It took all of 30 seconds yet it seemed like an hour to her as her heart pounded in her ears.
“This is why I don’t hang out in the damn woods,” she barked as they moved quickly through the night.
“My bad,” was all he could manage as a reply.
As they reached the car Shana hammered her key fob’s unlock button.
“Fuck, not now.”
“What is it?” Bradley’s voice shook.
“It’s just,” she hit the button repeatedly but nothing happened, “the battery on this stupid thing is going bad or something. I’ve been meaning to replace it.”
“Why did you lock the car in the first place?”
Shana scowled at him. “It locks automatically if you walk too far away from the car.”
“Why can’t these new cars just have a damn key. Do they really need—”
This time the screech sounded more like a woman shrieking. But even more disconcerting, it was much closer than before.
“Dude, let me see it,” Bradley demanded.
Shana handed the key fob over without saying anything. Her attention was on the lake.
Bradley smacked the back of the key fob over and over with the palm of his hand in between pressing the unlock button. “Come on. Come on!”
“Bradley,” Shana whispered.
“This fucking thing.”
“Come on. What the hell?”
“What?” Bradley hollered as he whipped around to see Shana shaking, her eyes glued to the lake. “What are you looking—”
That’s when he saw it. At first, he thought it was the edibles messing with his vision. But after rubbing his eyes, the horror before him was clear as day. Walking across the lake was the translucent figure of a girl coming toward them.
The girl’s skeletal figure glowed with an ominous green hue and her dark wiry hair was draped over her face like wet seaweed. A tattered gray sweater hung loosely from her bony shoulders and she had the two rotted legs of a corpse that were half-covered by a faded, black knee-high skirt.
“What the fuck is that,” Shana said in a near whisper, practically hyperventilating.
Bradley didn’t answer. He started pressing the unlock button again and again as if their lives depended on it, but nothing happened. They both frantically tugged on the door handles hoping that the car had somehow been magically unlocked.
Another shriek tore across the lake. Shana looked over to see that the ghastly figure was nearly at the shore.
“Hurry Bradley! Hurry!”
In his panic, Bradley fumbled the key fob and it fell to the ground, bouncing hard and rolling into the darkness. He dove to his knees in search of it. Needing light, he reached into his pocket but realized he had left his phone in the car.
“Give me your phone,” he shouted. “I need the light.”
“I left it in the car,” Shana gulped.
The shrieking grew closer and more shrill. Bradley could hear Shana’s panicked breathing as she stood close to the car. His skin broke out in gooseflesh as a sudden wave of cold air washed over him. We have to run, he suddenly thought.
Right as he was about to jump up and grab Shana’s arm so they could escape, his knuckles smacked against hard plastic.
He grabbed the key fob and pressed the button again. Miraculously, the car unlocked this time.
“Get in now,” he yelled to Shana as he jumped up and ripped opened the driver’s side door.
Everything happened so fast that it was all a blur. One moment she was standing there, frozen with fear as the overpowering stench of wet, rotted meat assaulted her nostrils. And the next moment she was sitting in the backseat of the car, then fell to the side as the car roared down the road in reverse.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!”
Shana managed to get back to an upright position. Bradley spewed a string of expletives as he reversed into an open patch of gravel alongside the road and got the vehicle turned around. Then they tore off down a familiar dirt road.
“That thing,” Bradley started. “It almost grabbed you. Didn’t you see it?” His lips were moving a mile a minute. “You had to see it.”
Her heartbeat slowed a little and she regained her composure. Then the image came back to her. That thing, that girl. It hadn’t walked across the water. It hovered over it. It hovered over the water until it reached land, then it rushed toward them—all the while shrieking that horrible, blood-curdling shriek.
The girl had rushed like a gust of wind toward Shana. The putrid smell of death hit her in the face when a breath of cold rot escaped the girl’s mouth while she shrieked. Then the girl reached out with her sharp, skeletal fingers and grabbed for Shanna’s arm. But at that exact moment, Bradley had pulled her back from the brink and they made their escape.
“Is it… is she gone?” Shana said with a quake in her voice.
He looked in all the mirrors but couldn’t see anything other than the still darkness of the surrounding woods.
“I,” he eased his foot off the accelerator and brought the car down to a reasonable speed, “I think we’re okay.
They rode in silence for some time until the welcome sight of the Lone Pine Gas Station came into view. Bradley pulled around to the side of the building and parked next to his old pickup truck.
“Maybe next time we should just go to the movies,” he said, trying his best to calm Shana’s nerves.
“That was the girl from the party, wasn’t it?”
“The girl who drowned. Was that her?”
Bradley didn’t want to think about the haunting image of the girl on the lake. In fact, he was hoping it was only something conjured up in his head by the edibles he had eaten earlier. But there was no denying what they had both seen.
“I don’t know,” he lied. “Are you okay to drive home?”
“I think so.”
Shana shuddered. The thought of the long drive home through the dark backroads quickened her pulse.
“Do you want me to follow you home?”
Shana thought about it for a moment. She knew she would feel much safer if he drove behind her. But she felt bad making him go so far out of his way.
“No, I’ll be alright.”
“You sure? I don’t mind.”
“I’m okay, really.”
Before they parted, Bradley gave her a hug and kissed her on the cheek. Neither could believe what they had experienced, but a part of Shana was glad that they had experienced together.
Shana texted her mom and told her she was on her way home. Then she climbed into her car and cautiously took to the road. Bradley sat in his truck and watched as her red tail lights faded into the darkness. Then he also pulled out of the parking lot and headed down the road in the opposite direction.
It only took half the length of time it normally does for Shana to get home. Usually a careful driver, she had sped the whole way through the dark back roads going at least 15 mph over the speed limit. When she pulled into her driveway she noticed her mom’s car was gone and all the lights in the house were off.
How can you still be at the casino, Shana thought.
She hit the garage door button on top of her dash and pulled inside after it opened. She hit the button again and waited for the door to close completely before getting out of the car and entering the house.
Once inside, she turned on as many lights as she could then changed into her pajamas. Her nerves were still on edge and she realized how tired she was.
“I’m never going outside again,” she mumbled to herself.
She went into the bathroom and nervously washed her face and brushed her teeth, half expecting to see a mass of dark hair and bone-white skin reflected in the mirror as the figure stood behind her. But it was only her tired face that looked back at her from the mirror.
Maybe I should start using weed, she thought as she shut off the bathroom light and scurried to her bedroom.
She crawled under the covers of her bed and listened for anything unusual. Only the sounds of chirping crickets outside disturbed the silence. Then her phone flashed to life as the ringtone blared loudly.
“Fuck!” she shouted as adrenaline pumped through her body.
Catching her breath, Shana picked up the phone and looked at the screen. Bradley’s name and number stared back at her from the device.
She pressed the green answer icon on the phone and put it to her ear. “Seeing if I made it home okay, huh? Such a gentleman,” she said to herself with a hint of relief in her voice.
An ear-splitting shriek blasted through the tiny speaker and she instinctively dropped the phone.
“Oh my God!”
Without warning, all the lights went out. Shana jumped from her bed and desperately flipped the light switch on the wall, but nothing happened. She ran back to her bed to grab her phone but was hit with a cold gust of icy wind. She turned toward the closed bedroom door and to her horror, watched as glowing green fog wafted up from under the door. Then the unmistakable stench of death permeated around her.
“What do you want from me?” Shana shouted.
As suddenly as it began, everything stopped. The lights turned back on and gone was the fog, the cold, and that awful smell. It was as if nothing had happened.
“I’m losing my mind,” she said out loud. “I’m losing my fucking mind.”
Shana ran over to the bed and picked up her phone, but right as she unlocked the screen the battery went dead and it shut down with a sad little jingle.
The faint beep of a car horn echoed from the direction of the garage. This was followed by the sound of footsteps through the house and down the hallway. Then there was a gentle knock at the door.
“Mom,” Shana said under her breath. “About time.”
She rushed to the bedroom door. Never before had she been so excited to see her mother’s face.
“Mom, you won’t believe what happened tonight,” she said excitedly as she pulled the door open.
But on the other side of the door stood a figure that wasn’t her mother. It was the rotted, drowned corpse of a girl. And before Shana could react, the corpse reached out and grabbed her wrist—its bony claws digging deep into her flesh—and it shrieked the unmistakable waling of the dead.
That was the last thing Shana saw or heard before everything went dark.
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