The Cadillac skidded on the wet road, bucking like an untamed horse as it encountered deep puddles. Frank fought the steering wheel left and then right, frantic to regain control. Marcia’s screams from the passenger seat were not helping him focus on the task at hand.
A rogue dry patch of road grabbed a wheel and the Caddy spun full circle, Frank’s screams joined his wife’s. In seconds it was over; the big car slid off the narrow road and bounced through a ditch before committing suicide against a tree.
Consciousness returned to Frank in a slow wash of pain, blurred vision and the taste of blood. He scrubbed the blood from his face with a sleeve and stared past the blood covered top of the steering wheel at the hood of the car. It looked like an accordion which was gushing steam from every fold. Marcia was going to kill him for wrecking the car.
Focus returned, driven by panic and he looked to the passenger seat. Marcia was slumped in the seat, head lolling.
“Be alive,” he whispered. “Please be alive.”
He unbuckled his belt and reached for his wife. Fingers flew to her throat; he couldn’t find a pulse. Frantically he prodded her neck, willing her to be alive but not feeling a thing. He’d seen this done a thousand times on television; could he be doing it wrong? Marcia moaned and her eyes fluttered. Frank sobbed in relief.
“What happened?” Marcia’s voice was rough but her eyes opened and focused on Frank, giving him hope.
“We hit a tree. Are you OK? Are you hurt?”
Marcia looked around and then touched her face and other random points before nodding.
“I think so.”
Frank turned to the door and leaned into it; it was jammed. He rammed his shoulder against the door and was rewarded on the third hit with a metallic shriek as the door opened. Frank crawled from the wreckage and helped Marcia exit the car.
He leaned back inside once she was standing safely and located his cell phone on the floor.
“No service,” he said.
“Oh God; what are we going to do?”
“We’re miles from the closest town and I don’t even remember the last time a car passed us going the other way. I think we have to walk and hope we find a house with a phone.”
“But what about the car?”
“Honey, look at it. I don’t think it’s going anywhere. We’ll just grab our jackets and valuables and hoof it.”
After donning their jackets and locating Marcia’s purse they clambered up the hill toward the road. Several mud covered minutes later Frank stopped climbing and looked around.
“Where’s the road?”
He looked back downhill. The Caddy was wrapped around a tree, pointed directly downhill from their location. He remembered shooting off the road in a relatively straight line before the crash; the road should be right were he was standing but all that was there was a dirt trail.
“Maybe the road ended when we were spinning?”
“Maybe; but then where’s the end of it?”
The rough dirt road extended as far as they could see in either direction. There was no way they had skidded that far along a dirt road without knowing it. The road looked more like a logging trail than the paved mountain road they had been driving.
“Which way do we go?”
Frank ceased pondering the mystery of the road and focused on their dilemma. Peering in each direction he finally pointed.
“I think there’s a sign up there. It might tell us where we are.”
The couple trudged through the misty morning toward the barely visible sign. The dew on the ground soaked through their shoes and the mist worked its way through their clothing; in minutes they were both soaking wet.
Wet, miserable and head still throbbing, Frank stopped in his tracks when he finally could read the sign.
“What the hell does that mean?”
The large wooden sign was faded and worn but the large white letters were still legible: DON’T GO IN THE WOODS.
“Maybe this is somebody’s property,” Marcia said.
“Well if that’s the case maybe they have a phone.”
“Frank, I don’t think they want people here. I mean, that’s a creepy sign.”
“We’ll apologize for trespassing later but for now we need help.”
They pressed past the sign and hiked for several more minutes when Marcia pointed.
“Look Frank; are those lights?”
Downhill from the trail Frank could see two lights in the distance; they might be the windows of a house.
“Good eye babe. Maybe they have a phone.”
Frank stepped from the trail and began walking downhill toward the house.
“But Frank, what about the sign?”
“Like I said, we’ll apologize.”
Marcia glanced back and forth along the road, her brow crinkled. After a moment of indecision she abandoned thoughts of arguing and followed her husband into the woods.
The mist became heavier as they moved into the trees. Liquid dripped from their brows and ran down their necks; they were miserable within seconds. The light became less sure as they moved further from the road. Even though the sun had been rising as they walked along the trail; it now seemed to be getting darker as they moved through the trees.
“Frank, maybe we should go back.”
“Wait,” Frank held up his hand to stop. “Do you hear that?”
Marcia cocked her head and strained to hear but shook her head.
“I don’t hear anything.”
“That’s just it, everything went silent; no birds, no bugs, nothing.”
“Let’s go back.” Marcia’s voice quivered, she sounded like she was about to cry.
A loud cracking sound broke the silence. Frank’s head snapped to the left toward the sound as another crack came from his right.
“There’s something out there,” he whispered.
A low growl, like a grizzly bear crossed with a chainsaw, came from behind the couple. Marcia pressed tight against Frank’s back. There was something big to the left and right and now behind them. The only way they could go was forward. Clinging to each other they slowly moved deeper into the woods, hoping that slow steady movement would keep whatever was around them from charging.
The sounds of movement shadowed them as they walked but whatever the stalking animals were, they stayed just beyond their range of sight.
Frank and Marcia continued inching forward. Each step was accompanied by a crack of a branch; a growl or a deep panting sound. Frank could almost make out large shaggy shapes moving through the trees but still could not see what they were.
“The house,” Marcia whispered.
Sure enough, a large house loomed in the mist ahead. It was a Victorian which had seen better years. The siding was cracked and black with mold. The windows were covered with grime and large stretches of the decorative molding was missing, giving the porch the appearance of a gap toothed mouth. It appeared abandoned except for two lights in a pair of upper windows.
A loud crack brought the couple around. A large shaggy mound moved through the mist behind them. It was moving closer. The animal’s shoulders were higher than Frank’s head. Its massive head was held low near the ground and Frank could see glistening fangs and a dark red tongue as it panted. The other two animals appeared on their flanks. They were each as horrific as the one behind them.
Frank bolted for the house, dragging Marcia with him. The trio of monsters charged forward but skidded to a halt at the bottom of the shallow staircase. Frank pounded on the door which felt like it was about to collapse under his fist.
“Help us,” he shouted as he pounded.
The door opened revealing a bear of a man. His black hair hung past his shoulders framing a massive gray beard. He was easily a foot taller than Frank and his shoulders filled the doorway.
“Good boys,” he said in a deep voice with an accent Frank had never heard before.
“I see you’ve found dinner.”
The man smiled, revealing a mouth full of shark teeth. Frank heard a thump as the creatures started up the stairs behind them. Marcia began to scream.