“Faster” Screamed the thought from the man behind the wheel. The car whining at the strain placed upon it by the dogged man. The engine pleading for reprieve, wailing for mercy, still the driver pushed on. “They’re gaining!” he thought glancing in the rearview mirror. Panic pulled at the mans wits’, threatening to tear the him apart at the very seams of sanity, like a hull with rivets too small to bear the strain on a tossing north sea. Hours he had driven, all white knuckled and sweating.
The car screamed down the open road, cradled by fields of gold, ripe for harvests blade to cut them down. The engine’s plea the only sound, save the wiping of sweat and rubbing of hands on the steering wheel. The radio had sparked out a short time ago causing the lingering smell of burning circuits to hang heavy in the moist air. Summer’s heat refused to release its grip when the Moon came out to claim what is his. Still the car drove on nervously past leaning barns and windmills rusted stiff, pointing south, the direction the man was driving so fervently away from.
Through the mirror the driver sees them, shadows, Mists, forms drifting in and out of the fields, tangible and terrible. He wipes his brow again and deposits the moist hand to his blue jean covered thigh once more. The driver knows what he’s done, knows the price to be paid, and knows this will end soon. Yet he drives on, faster still. The tires devolve, from traction to memory. Once proud of their purpose, now retire to their black topped cemetery of Northern Carolina, the tires slowly find they are being pulled apart as much as the man. Still, the man drives on.
Fields give way to forest, from gold to gray. They are closer now, the driver knows. The mirror reveals the swirling darkness, stars wink out, abandoning the driver for fear of shadows darker than night might cast their gaze skywards. “Faster!” the driver yells, demanding more than the car can give its cruel master. His leg flexes, pressing harder on the peddle, the engine feels doom and knows it too will soon find an end.
The Mists lick at the car, ghostly limbs reaching, caressing, and comforting the car. The Mists hear its pain and pleas, the last gasps of its life. Just out of the shadows reach the driver struggles, defiantly twisting the wheel and forcing loose the Mists’ grip. Agony and sadness dampen the air as the car yields its’ masters call, swerving away from the groping Mists.
“I had to do it, no choice.” The driver said aloud, in feeble attempt to justify the events witnessed by waning light and waking Moon. “Deals a deal!” The driver yelled through the tightly shut window. “Pipers gap, that’s where they’ll be and they can have it.” Mumbled the driver; wishing now that the smell of burnt plastic circuits would subside. “Air, I need air.” Pulling his hand back from the knob, the window he knows must remain shut tight if he is to survive. The heat and smell linger oppressive, inviting folly of sweet relief from the cooling night air of an open car window.
The Moon could see only glimpses, the forest refusing to give audience to one who sees so much evil as he. This, the forest would keep unto itself, a secret to burry deep, like the roots that slithered beneath, trembling with anticipation it waited. The forest knew her part to play, the sacrifices that were to come. She relished the violence promised by the Mists, like a woman might savor the smell of a lover, close, intimate and pure.
The shadows living in the forest served the Mists well this night, embraced the Mists while they clawed their way through the forest. Her branches leaning low, giving grips to the Mists for it to close in on the driver. Vapor and form, transparency and umbra, the Mists moved like water escaping the prison atop hidden mountains. The driver was closer now; the Mist gained, closing the distance on the car and trembled in rage at what was taken.
The forest hung low over the road, claw like branches swaying in the wind grasping and nipping at the car. Fear propelled the car, the driver screamed, yelled “Move you pile of shit!” The car was old, felt its many years in every thrust of its pistons and bend in the road. The car had seen many things; it had carried two generations across the country, resting before the majesty of the Grand Canyon. It had burdened the cries of two soon to be mothers twenty years apart on their way to birth life into the world. The car also recalled in these last few moments the sounds of infant cries during their first trip home. It was sadness that started the end of things tonight. These memories were long ago, in a time when its’ blue paint was not yet faded, before its glass had yellowed with age. Now the car knew only sadness, while the driver has yet to taste the bitterness.
The Mists closed in on the car and driver. Its tendrils once again licked at the car like a lover caressing a neck. The forest hung her branches low, knowing the time for violence was at hand. The Moon watched with curious gaze, wondering if he would glimpse the coming violence, the taste of it hung in the air and the Moon relished it. For that is what the Moon does, observe and relish in the deeds of night. The Mists wailed a banshee scream, the trees quivered and shook, the air became dense and rain began to fall. First a single drop, then another and another, until the rain was steady, heavy and murky. The rain fell red like blood, dark as the sin committed by the driver so recently further south. The road slickened from the falling rain, the car felt its’ dying tires start to give way and knew the end was here. The driver fumbling for the toggle to turn on the wipers did not notice the splattering noises now steadily hitting the glass, only the murky rain falling obscuring his sight.
The Mists lashed at the window gaining the drivers attention, shapes and faces pressed soundless screams of terror into the glass. First upon one side, then another, then a third until the Mist surrounded the car. Only now did he see it, surrounded by the faces of agony, faces of the guilty, faces of shame, he saw it. The trees were bleeding; the forest a living thing of flesh and bone, blood and soil. Leaves turned to shreds of flesh now slapping into the car, coating the road in the macabre leaving no traction to be had for the poor wounded tires. The Moon gasped as he glimpsed the scene below through a small break in the canopy of trees now made flesh and blood, the forest wailed in agony and triumph as her last great power revealed. The Mists laughed a moist dead laughter as the car began to slide. The end had finally come.
First came the terror filled cries from the tires, knowing they had given all they could give, released their waning grip. The horror then became the cars’, its’ end only feet away as the tires relinquished their grip. The shrieking scream of metal and the shattering of glass became the death rattle for the old car. The drive was last, ensured to experience all of the terror and horror, to hear the cries and shrieking and for him the sound of flesh and bone breaking with a sickening wet snap the world halted. All is still now, the tires turn no more, and the car breathed nary a wisp or gasp. The sound of rain began to subside, leaving streams of red through the forest which drank her fill. Still the driver remained, trapped and surround by the faces in the Mist. “It’s me, it has always been me. I had no choice you see? You do see, please?” Regret, the driver felt it more purely than any pain he’d endured. With a single touch of the Mist he faded into death’s waiting hands. This was the only satisfaction the Mist would have. Yet regret was enough, enough for the sins, enough for the sacrifices, enough to appease the Moon and forest. The Mists cradled the man and he knew no more. With a fathers care the Mists laid to rest this wayward son, under the trees of Pipers Gap. Slowly the Mist returned to the shadows and together they faded away hand in hand, leaving the night to deliver payment for morning light.