Midnight Ride

Alex drove home, exhausted from a long vacation in Las Vegas. He was visiting his friend Nick, or that had been the initial idea. Instead, Nick found comfort in the strippers and slot machines, leaving Alex as his chauffeur from one flashing marquee to the next. It was 10 minutes past midnight when he had enough of the nonsense, so he headed out back home to Los Angeles. Nick would wake up with a lousy hangover and call him a bitch for bailing, but that was not Alex’s type of scene anymore. All between him and a warm bed was an endless stretch of darkness through the desert. He drove out of the main hub and reached the highway blaring ‘Ramble On’ over the radio as he went into the darkness.

A resounding bang erupted under the front left part of the vehicle. The car hovered off the ground a moment then thumped back down, panicking Alex to grasp the wheel, fingertips turning white. He kept it under control and pulled over onto the dirt. He shut off the engine and radio, leaving his headlights on. “You gotta be joking” Alex yelled, palm striking his steering wheel which bellowed out the horn in response. Alex gave a grunt and got out to assess the damage. The front left tire had popped leaving nothing but the rim and sparing the frame. “How did that happen?” he pondered as he scratched his head and walked to the trunk. His duffel bag and backpack lay on top of the hatch to the spare tire, so he put them on the right side of the car, backpack on top of the duffel. He glanced around to still see nothing but blackness with haze to the east and west of far off havens of society. Leaning back to the trunk, he lifted the hatch and pulled out the jack and tire iron. A low, subtle whistle. It came from no distinct direction, but Alex could hear it, so slight, like when your ears ring. It sent a peculiar shiver up his spine. “Bats? What a weird sound” he compromised with his nerves, leaning back to get the tire out.

Alex went under the car to position the jack lift. It slid into the groove underneath and he wrenched it up. Halfway through he heard another screech but assumed the jack needed oil. Once the tire hung about an inch from the ground, he moved back to reach for the tire, but something was odd. His duffel bag had moved to right in front of the trunk and his backpack knocked over. They both were illuminated by the red brake lights giving an eerie feeling of insecurity. “What the… HEY, WHO’S THERE?” he screamed, that was no bat. He looked all around but with no luminance, darkness hid everything. His heart racing, he realized how urgent the tire repair had become. Standing over the tire again he looked around a shouted into the twilight “Watch yourself, I have a weapon”. It was true, the tire iron could do some serious damage, but they didn’t need to know it was not a firearm. The lug nuts on the tire gave Alex some trouble, he had to kick the tire iron to make them move. While removing the third of five, something scurried behind him. The light from his phone barely illuminated further than a foot in front of him as Alex whipped around. Alex breathed heavily, what type of animal would hunt him out here? Coyotes? He did not have a deep knowledge of the desert, but he knew he was being watched. Hair all over his body stood on end as he rushed back to the tire. He flung the last two bolts off and ran to the trunk when a blinding screech pierced his ears from the darkness to the left, across the road. “AHHHH, God what is happening?! What is this shit?” He stared into the abyss holding back tears as panic sunk deep into his gut. Alex froze for a moment but he regained his composure. With a clang, Alex dropped the tire into place on the protruding screws and frantically picked up the bolts to lock the tire down. Nothing moved, it was a dead silence around him. Yet even as he tightened the last bolt down, he knew something was watching, never let him out of sight. The car bounced a few times as Alex dropped the jack and slid it out from underneath the vehicle, rushing to the trunk and throwing all the leftover pieces loosely inside.

He jumped into the driver seat and jammed the keys into the ignition, twisting it violently. As the engine flared on, the headlights flickered off then shone bright again and Alex gasped. He saw a pair of eyes glinting down the road in his headlights. The creature glared at Alex then jumped out of the light. From this distance Alex only made out a medium height shadow with two glowing orbs in the upper middle section. He had no intent to find out what this thing was. His back tires screeched out of control, then found the ground and grabbed it, hurling Alex and the car down the road. He stared out the window at the stretch of pavement in front of him and chuckled. The chuckle then burst into insane laughter as he felt alive, wind licking his face from the window he cracked open. He glanced in the rearview and saw a large skeletal figure with glossy black eyes peering back at him. Alex’s eyes widened as the beast leaped off his bumper. Keeping speed Alex looked around, and abruptly the beast appeared in the street. It’s stared back in curiosity, its head bobbing left to right. “Fuck you!!” Alex screamed. He slammed the gas pedal to the floor, hoping the more force he applied the harder the car would annihilate this thing back to where it came from. He thought it would dodge, but it stood there still unsure. With a thud, the figure flipped over the car and landed in the darkness behind. Alex did not even chance glancing backwards, he held his foot on that pedal until he hit his driveway. The next morning, the news blared in the background as he sat down to breakfast. Apparently a couple heading home from Vegas in the early morning had disappeared. They wanted anyone with any information to contact the police immediately. Alex got up and turned off the television, a tear dripping down his cheek as he sat back down to enjoy the rest of his life.

 

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