A Car In The Woods; Chapter One
BECAUSE THE NIGHT
Gary slid down the ice-covered hillside, losing his footing, winding up in a windmill of freefall. The blood trail he left on the way down was nothing compared to what he had run from at the top. Bouncing along, the accumulation of cuts, bruises, and bones breaking, left little for him to think about.
Reaching the bottom, the wind was further knocked out of him as his progress was halted by a tree trunk. The moonlight was spotty, but bright enough for him to see the broken, jagged edges; the tree itself was on the ground. Gaining his breath in painful gulps, he realized that if he rolled more to his right, he might’ve been gored by one of its level branches.
Getting to his knees, the thought came that it was in that position exactly for that outcome.
Screams from above. Tommy? Ricky? He couldn’t tell. John was already in pieces, mixed in with what was left of his Studebaker Golden Hawk. Gary had told him he was driving too fast, but they all told him to shut it.
“Candyass,” Ricky and Tommy said at the same time, then “Jinx!” and punched each other in the arm. “Shut up, Maynard,” laughed John. It was the last thing John was ever going to say to him.
Gary tried to stand, but his body wasn’t having any of it. His pounding heart felt like it would burst through. The screams, getting less frequent and fading away, only made the night’s events explode in his head.
The four of them had been cruising around, taking hits off of the Mary Jane that Ricky scored. It was a school night, and they should have all been in bed, but John called, and that was that. It started out with them all lusting over that Tuesday chick from the Dobie Gillis TV show, as they did more often than not. John liked Dobie and felt he should have a Thalia on his arm, doing the Back Seat Bingo with her. The others teased him that he’d only get a Zelda. That’s when the nipple twisters and arm punches began.
John had started calling Gary “Maynard” first, the others following suit. Gary thought the character was the best part of the show and tried to act like a cool imitation around school. As much as he hated it, the nickname stuck.
From Tuesday Weld to school to Maynard G. Krebs, back to Tuesday Weld, the topic of conversation led to where their collective heads were at since October: the mystery car in the woods. This time, they were fired up enough. Tonight, they would find the car or die trying.
They were right on that part.
They were racing around the back roads, driving up and down dirt paths, laughing and smoking. Ricky reached from the back seat and gave John a Wet Willie. John turned around, an arm raised, and something got in their way.
The car somersaulted along a rocky outcropping, landing back on its tires. Gary had been thrown out of the passenger side window, which had been opened to lessen the weed smell. He landed flat on his back, hitting his head hard on the stony ground. Gary searched for the car, his friends, but his eyes weren’t going along with that. His focus was cutting in and out, so, laying there, he only heard what came next.
Whatever landed on the car was big. The sound was heavy, the Golden Hawk squealing as one by one the tires blew out. Gary heard a door opening, John yelling something. A flurry of wet clicking sounds melded into John’s screams, punctuated by the noise of his flesh being ripped apart.
As John’s wails passed, Gary’s eyesight was getting clearer. He wished they hadn’t. Blood, or what he thought was blood, was everywhere, black in the night instead of red. Ricky and Tommy were probably still in the car, muffled cries coming from the car, and Gary did his best to get up, hoping to help his friends.
But again a huge blob landed on the car. Metal was tearing, a car door was flung, and it barely missed. Gary was backing away, not sure what to do, not sure what was happening. A large thump near him startled him onto a patch of ice, which sent him over, and down, the hillside.
The screams on the outcropping dwindled, with one last yelp of pain. Gary knew that was Ricky this time. It was a solo scream and telling. The clicks were loud and all consuming.
The fear pushed him to move. Crunching, slurping noises now filled the night. A warm stream dribbled down his legs as he hopped from one tree to the next, dragging himself when he couldn’t. The woods were silent except for his exertions.
Pulling himself into a thicket of bushes, cutting and pricking himself more, Gary drew into himself. He was shaking all over, the cold finally reaching his awareness. He quelled his teeth chattering as best he could and attempted to take quiet, shallow breaths. Gary did not move otherwise.
The quiet was overwhelming after a short while. Waiting created anxiety; the anxiety grew until it flamed his fear back to the surface. The fear made him think he was better off trying to get out of the woods. That thinking pushed him to stand up, leave the thicket, and hobble away.
He didn’t get very far when the clicking surrounded him.
The remains of the Studebaker Golden Hawk were found a week to the day once all four sets of parents realized their boys were missing. The Sheriff couldn’t put this one off, as much as he wanted to. Popular boys gone missing was not what he wanted to be remembered for. Especially if they were found dead.
Thing was, the car was found. Only the car.
The tires were in shreds. All the windows were just shattered glass, which was how they found the remains as the sun glinted off the pieces on the ground. The Hawk was twisted out of shape, squashed in places, gouged in others. But there was no trace of the four teens. There was no blood.
The search went on, officially, for the better part of a week. The parents and family friends continued a little while longer. Betty Joe Davis, who had wanted to be John’s anything, knew of his desire to find the mystery car. It began to make sense that that was what the boys had been gallivanting after, ending in every parent’s nightmare.
The tales kept growing.
There was a car in the woods.