The Raid. Flash Fiction.

“They’re all dead.”
“You can’t know that.”
“They have to be, nothing could survive that.”
Silence fell, “Maybe someone made it out.”
“Yeah. Maybe. We might find them later.”
“Yeah.”

Brad didn’t know what else to say, it was easier to just agree with Carrie. He didn’t know anyone in the house that well, not like Carrie had, but they had been kind to him. Carrie would spend hours over there, singing songs, eating. She’d have been with them today if he hadn’t demanded that she do her own damn chores for once. Getting that bucket of water had probably saved her life. He didn’t hear them approach, no one ever did. Before anyone could realise what was happening the house was raided, screams echoing into the sky. After the screaming started the only thing anyone could do was run. Once they had finished with everyone inside they’d start looking for others. Sometimes, with all the stories and seeing the aftermath of their visits it was hard to remember that they were just human. He had seen first-hand the carnage of one of their raids. Blood and gore had been everywhere, if he hadn’t know that it had belonged to people it would have been impossible to tell. No one really knew what they did to the bodies, the bits that disappeared. There were plenty of rumours though, whispers in the night around the fire.

“Do you think we can go back?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think we should risk it.”
They had been hiding in these woods for hours, and Brad wasn’t sure how long they’d have to wait for it to be safe again. Sometimes it was only an hour or two, others it was days.

Brad looked out at the smouldering remains of the house, they were long gone. None of the other houses had been attacked and he could see people moving cautiously through the village. He breathed a sigh of relief and quickly made his way back to Carrie. Together they went home. The house was the same as it had been only a few hours before, but it felt different. Colder. The house next door was always full of people and laughter, sometimes he couldn’t sleep for the noise, but there was something comforting about it too. Knowledge that there were people only a short distance away. Still, with the attack came some relief, they wouldn’t attack again for another year at least.

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Breakfast at the Diner. Flash Fiction.

Steven looked down at the knife in his hands. It felt right there, natural. The gleaming surface was spotted with blood, though he had not actually harmed anyone himself. Outside he could hear noises of everyday life, the small diner was deathly quiet. Somehow no one outside had noticed the man who walked in and went straight to the counter, that he had jumped over it, shrieking nonsense, that he had pulled a knife and started attacking people. Steven had been enjoying a leisurely breakfast when it happened, he hadn’t been paying attention either, caught up in his newspaper. Then the shrieks started, shortly followed by screams. He had turned in time to see the knife vanishing into the poor young girls throat, before it was ripped free sending an arc of blood into the air. Stevens hand clutched at the knife it was holding as his body tried to move back further into the vinyl booth.

It happened quickly, but it seemed to take hours. Steven watched, unable to move as the attacker killed everyone in the diner, one by one. Some were frozen in terror like he was, but a few tried to defend themselves, take down the attacker. He moved like nothing Steven had ever seen. Ducking and weaving as if it was some complicated dance that he had long ago memorised. It was beautiful in its fluidity and terrifying in its deadliness. When the man finally stopped he stood, panting in the middle of the diner, his head turned slowly towards Steven. The mans eyes were bright and feverish, just slightly too wide. He moved one finger up to his blood splattered lips, then he smiled and winked at Steven before calmly turning and leaving the diner. Steven stayed where he was, unable to move. Listening to the steady drip, drip, drip of blood. He didn’t know how long he was sitting there, almost panting rather than breathing, when a loud scream rung out from the door. He flinched back, dropping the knife with a loud clatter. His fingers were stiff and sore, his whole body felt numb, unable to move. He tried to turn to whoever was screaming, to tell them to stop making noise in case the man came back, but nothing came out except high pitched gasps.

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Working for the Cure. Flash Fiction.

Joanna hated the way they looked at her as she passed the cages. All pleading eyes and begging gasps. She couldn’t help them, even if she wanted to. They were doomed the moment they became ill. Letting them out now would do nothing but help spread the disease. At least here they would be part of a cure, even if they weren’t exactly willing participants. She did what she always did, she looked forward and didn’t allow herself to even glance at anyone in the cages. That was a bad idea, especially since there was a chance she’d see someone she knew again. That was always the worst, listening to someone screaming your name as you just continued walking, trying not to run back, to offer comfort. She had to remember that they weren’t people, not anymore. They were just sacks of disease that would wander around and infect everyone else. They needed to keep themselves detached, removed. It was the only way.

Joanna was in the lunchroom when they came, the men in their thick uniforms. They stormed into the room, yelling and screaming, waving their guns around. Joanna didn’t wait, she dropped to the ground, hands on her head. She didn’t know who they were here for, but she didn’t want to be another casualty. She couldn’t see who they were after, but she could hear him. Benny, shrieking and screaming how he wasn’t sick, there was some kind of mistake. Joanna felt a chill move down her body. He had the vaccine, they all had. They thought the vaccine would keep them safer than those who hadn’t gotten it. Sure, there was a risk, there always was but it was supposed to keep them safe. Only the direct line staff, world officials and those rich enough to afford it had it. If it didn’t work, or if the virus had mutated. Joanna closed her eyes, trying to block out the screams.

As quickly as it began it was over. The large double doors boomed shut blocking out the shouting. Someone was helping her up, she didn’t get a chance to see who it was before they moved onto the next person. The room was filled with quiet and nervous muttering.

Joanna took a deep breath in the hopes it would steady her hands, but nothing was working. She was on edge, had been for a while. Probably since Benny had been taken from the cafeteria. No one had seen him after that, not even in the cages which is where he was supposed to go. Rumours spread quickly, despite managements attempts to quash them. Was he removed for being in someone’s way? Was he actually sick? Was he bribing someone? Was he just outright killed? Joanna made sure to keep a bit of extra distance between her and the cages, now she walked directly down the centre, making sure not to stray too close to either side. It was hard to look at them and remember that they weren’t really people now. The cages were cleaned out once a day but it didn’t seem to be enough. The entire room had the stink of unwashed bodies and waste and it was only getting worse. Some of the more spirited prisoners had taken to throwing bodily fluids at passerby. Though it was seldom, everyone knew the punishment for it. Hung from meat hooks above the cages so everyone could watch as they died in agony. It was a cruel solution, but Joanna had to admit it was effective.

Joanna sat in her office, head in her hands. She couldn’t keep doing this. She didn’t care what they said, they were still people, inside and out. They were frightened, terrified people. She had seen what the disease did, watched as it took away mental faculties one by one until they were nothing but a drooling, shambling mess. But that was at the end stages only. Before that they were still themselves. She had heard whispers from her co-workers, that they had been doing their own tests, that the disease wasn’t as bad in the early stages as they were saying. There was even a rumour that not everyone in the cages actually had it. It made a sick sort of sense, once you were in the cages that was it, you were done. No one would let you out, no one would listen as you claimed you weren’t sick. That’s what they all said after all. You could take out almost any number of people in a time like this, when everyone was panicked and not thinking clearly. Who would notice? Who would know?

Joanna sat into her car and after a moment started driving. As she left the facility she realised she would never be back. She couldn’t do it. She thought she could, she thought she was doing the right thing, helping the sick get better, helping find a cure before this damned disease wiped out everything and everyone. But she couldn’t. She could see them, every time she closed her eyes, emaciated bodies covered in filth, their wide, shining eyes, still hopeful. The stink of them clung to her now, she couldn’t escape it, it seemed to have settled into her skin, her clothes, she knew it would follow her for the rest of her life, she would never be able to forget it.

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No Short Story Today.

I’m sick again. Yaaay.

There will be a short story Wednesday, I should be back to normalish by then!

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Testing. Short story.

Nancy could feel it burning through her veins, that itchy, white-hot heat. She clenched her hands, willing herself not to scratch. The first time it had caught her unawares and she was covered in scratches for days afterwards. It would be over soon, she just had to concentrate on breathing and waiting for it to subside. The itching started to die down as her joints started to throb, Nancy let out a sigh of relief as the itching finally disappeared. She could deal with the aching joints for a day or two before they returned to normal. She flexed her hands, the knuckles felt like they were swollen and slow to move, but they looked fine. The doctor smiled at her, “Has the itching passed?”
“Yeah, we’re at the achy joint stage now.”
“And otherwise you feel fine?”
“Yeah, no complaints.”
“Anything out of the ordinary since the last shots?”
“As I said before no, nothing strange. The aches go away in a day or two and I feel normal again.”
The doctor raised an eyebrow, “Well, normal for me anyway.” Nancy smiled, “it’s my new normal now.”
“Good, you have our number for emergencies?”
“Yep, still have it.”
“I know, but I just want to make sure. Better to be prepared and all that.”
He handed her an envelope, “And here is your payment, same time and day next week?”
“Yeah, that suits just fine.”
“Oh, do you need any more of the tracker forms?”
“No, I have enough to last me for the next few years I think.”
“Good, well, then I’ll see you next week. Take it easy until your joints feel better.”
Nancy stood and shrugged on her coat, “I will, don’t worry.”
“Have a nice day.”
“You too.”

Nancy left the doctor’s office, purse slung over one shoulder. The waiting room was empty as she passed through, it always was. She had yet to see another patient in the building, but she knew there were others. They had told her the first time she had come here, there were over a thousand patients in the project, more than half were in the end stages now. Or at least that’s what the doctors had told her. Pretty safe, some side effects blah blah. Nancy didn’t really care about that, she cared about the money. She stopped at the bathroom and went inside, there she quickly counted out the wad of cash in the envelope. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust the doctor, it was just that if there were any problems she would prefer to sort them out sooner rather than later. But it was all there, all four thousand. She slipped the envelope into her purse and left the bathroom.

Outside she walked calmly to her car, it was amazing how quickly she had become accustomed to carrying around large chunks of cash. The first time she had left she had done so with hunched shoulders, looking around furtively for anyone who might be lurking. She got into her car and turned on the heating full blast, it wasn’t a cold day, it was actually quite pleasant, but the heat would help with the aching, it always did.

Nancy let herself into her apartment, which was a definite improvement over the last one. She had jumped at the chance to upgrade once she signed on with the testing, after all she had a steady income now, why shouldn’t she enjoy it? She dumped her bag on the kitchen table and went to the sitting room, she had already set it up to have everything she’d need. A blanket and pillows to help prop her up, a few heat pads, snacks, painkillers and a bottle of water. Nancy turned on the TV and popped a few of the painkillers into her mouth, followed by a swig from the bottle of water.

Nancy was startled from her doze by a sharp pain in her wrist, she gently massaged it, trying to figure out if she had shifted or bumped it when it came again. She gasped at the intensity of it. Normally the ache was dull and throbbing. She stood from the couch, wincing as another sharp pain passed through her hips. She went to the kitchen and picked up her phone, it took her a few seconds to dial, her fingers were slow to respond. The phone rung for what seemed like hours before someone finally picked up, “Hello?”
“Uh hi, is this the Johnston Medical Centre?”
“Yes, it is.”
“I’m looking for a Dr. Jackson? I’m one of his patients.”
“Could you please give me your patient ID number?”
“Yeah it’s” Nancy looked at the letter she had been given the first day “459829046”

“One moment.”
Nancy waited, trying to ignore the growing pain, finally, “Hello? Nancy?”
“Yes, I’m here, I’m having some really bad pain in all my joints.”
“What kind of pain?”
“It’s sharp, kind of stabbing, not achy and throbbing like before.”
“Ok, when did the pain get worse?”
“Not long, maybe five minutes?”
“Is it getting better or worse or staying the same?”
“Staying the same.”
The doctor sighed, “Ok, good. That’s good. Everything should be fine, just keep monitoring it. If the pain gets worse I want you to ring me straight away on my direct line.”
Nancy took down his number, “Will I be ok?”
“Yes, you should be. We had a problem before with these kind of pains. As long as they don’t get worse you’ll be fine.”
“How much worse was it? For the others?”
“I’m not going to lie. It was bad.”
“Were they ok? Afterwards?”
“I’m sorry Nancy I’ve to go, just keep monitoring the pain and take a few painkillers. If it gets worse call me, try to get some sleep too, that should help.” The doctor hung up the phone, Nancy put the phone down on the counter. Her heart was beating quickly, she didn’t like how he had sidestepped her last question. Another pain shot through her hands, she took a breath and went back to the couch, moving slowly.

When she woke the next morning the pain was gone, no more dull ache, no more sharp, stabbing pains. She moved carefully at first, afraid of setting anything off. As she ate breakfast she considered dropping out of the project. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all. Sure it paid well, but there was no guarantee that she would continue to be fine, and who knew what this stuff was doing to her body? What would it do in ten or twenty years? Nancy sighed and took a sip of her coffee, there was no point in worrying about it. She was stuck. She had signed the contract and the had explained it all, she was in it until the end now, unless she had some kind of dangerous reaction. Still, the money was good and they did tell her that at the end of it, if it worked, it would improve her life immeasurably, already she was feeling stronger and things seemed to come to her more easily. Surely she could deal with a little pain for only a few more months.

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Someday. Short Story.

Terry looked at himself in the mirror, turning his head this way and that. When had he gotten so old? All these new wrinkles and blemishes seemed to have sprung up over night. He ran his hand carefully through his hair, at least he wasn’t going grey yet, that was a plus. Though at the rate he was going it probably wouldn’t be long anyway. He sprayed some cologne on himself and smiled at the mirror, he tilted his head side to side, looking at the way his cheeks bunched up, at all those tiny little lines. He let his face fall to its resting position. He used to be catnip to women, now it was hard to even get a number, never mind a date. Of course he knew it was because he just wasn’t rich enough for them, after all he was attractive enough and in pretty good shape all things considered.

In his bedroom Terry dressed in a suit and again looked at himself in the mirror. He looked good, if he said so himself. He smiled at himself again, making sure it felt good, felt real. He grabbed his phone and wallet and went into the kitchen, there he had a cup of coffee before leaving.

He stood at the bus stop, looking at his phone. Terry hated getting the bus, always had, but a car was out of the question, especially around these parts. Too expensive to run and too expensive to buy a decent looking one. Anything he could afford looked awful, something he’d be too embarrassed to be seen in anyway. At least with the bus he could claim he was doing it for environmental reasons, that always made him sound good. When the bus came he crammed on with everyone else, having to endure the feeling of them against him. He snagged a seat this time, though some fat woman sat down next to him, her flab pressing against him. He tried not to shudder as the heat built up. He breathed slowly, in and out, he would be there soon.

When he stop came he got up quickly and shoved his way out of the seat, not waiting for the woman to move. If she wasn’t so fat he’d have been able to get out easily, but the bitch had obviously given up at some point and just decided to start stuffing her gob. Outside the bus he brushed down his suit, he could still feel her sweaty weight against him, he shuddered. Terry let out a slow breath, comforting himself with the thought that at least it wasn’t some crazy homeless person.

Terry got to the office a few minutes late, though that wasn’t all that unusual. He swiped in and made his way to his desk, though at this stage in his life he knew he should already be in an office, preferably a big one with lots of natural light. He sat down and logged himself in.

Terry looked at the clock again, it was almost lunch time and he’d gotten barely anything done. It wasn’t his fault, it was that woman on the bus, because of her he was having an off day. There had been a few already this week, but he wasn’t worried, he was good at that kind of stuff, he’d just redirect the stupid manager somewhere else and that’d get Christine off his back for another few weeks. Besides, he knew they wouldn’t get rid of him, he was essential to this place, keeping the whole thing going really.

Terry went out for lunch, as usual. He didn’t like sitting in the small, stuffy canteen with all his co-workers prattling on about their trivial lives, gushing about celebs and x-factor or what ever TV show they were in love with this week. It was all so painfully mundane that whenever he was forced to eat there it made him want to scream at them all, get right up in their faces and try and wake them up. He didn’t bother though, he knew it would be pointless, they’d never realise. They’d just spend their lives in boring mediocrity. Not him though, this job wasn’t his life it was just a way station, something would come along down the line, he just knew it would. He was destined for great things and nothing could get in the way of destiny.

After lunch there was a staff meeting, Terry didn’t know what it was about, he wasn’t paying attention. The woman leading it, Carol, had massive tits and no bra, it was distracting to say the least. He tried to tune in every now and then but god love her, she wasn’t very bright, obviously God gave her huge tits to make up for the lack of a brain. The meeting ended, he missed most of it but it was nothing important, no one looked panicked or worried, just another circle jerk about how great the place was and how everyone should be working to their full potential.

Back at his desk Terry took a sip of his coffee and scrolled through the internet, it was the only real way he could pass the time. It would look bad if he was on his phone, but no one could really see his computer screen. He suspected the IT guys knew about him not doing a lot of work, but he reasoned they wouldn’t care once he wasn’t looking up porn or something stupid like that.

On the way home Terry grabbed a pizza, making it a large. It had been a long day and he deserved it, he needed a bright spot. He sat down on his couch, turned on the TV and started to eat. Midway through he loosened his belt, it had been digging into him all day, he sighed with relief as he pulled it free. When he was finished he got up and went to his bedroom, leaving the pizza box where it was, he could deal with it later. In his room he changed out of the suit, taking a moment to note that his belly seemed to be sticking out a little further than he remembered. He patted it gently, he’d have to start being a bit careful about what he ate. He didn’t want to end up like that fat fuck on the bus this morning he made a mental note to start running again and promptly forgot a few minutes later.

Terry sat on his couch, watching TV and sipping his beer. He had tried to get the lads together, to go to the pub, but they were all busy. They were always busy these days, no doubt thinking they were so great. Frank was married with a few kids, Terry could never remember how many, Tommy never came out anymore, not after he started dating that bitch. Losers the lot of them. Not him though, he was onto something big, he could feel it in his bones, and any day now it would happen.

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Laketon. Short Story.

“I’m dead and I have been for a long time. Before we begin properly I really need you to understand what that means. I have not seen friends or family, I do not know what they look like now, I don’t know how they’re living their lives. I don’t even know if they still live in the same city, but I know they had a funeral for me. I know they mourned for me. I left on the day I died. You might think it’s overkill, hell I even wondered that myself when it happened, but you’ll see. You’re new to all this, aren’t you? Have you seen them yet?”
“Seen who?”

The man chuckled and shook his head, “You’ll know them when you see them. It’s none of that men in black suits bullshit, they look like regular people but they’re not. You won’t notice it at first, but as time goes on you’ll be able to spot them. They move oddly, they don’t seem to eat, they tend to stare for just a little too long before they blink. I’ve seen groups of them in a restaurant with full plates of food, they move their forks around, it’s almost like they’re pretending to eat like in a movie. You’ve talked to one or two people so far, but the more interest you show in what happened, the more interest they’ll show in you.” The man took a drink from his coke and set it back on the diner table, “You won’t know my name, someone will probably be able to figure it out eventually, but I’ve taken steps. I’ve changed how I look, I’ve taken great pains to disappear, but I think they know where I am. They’ve been content to leave me alone for the most part, I think because they know I’m scared.”

He took a deep breath, then shook his head. “Sorry, I’m rambling. Ok. I’m going to start at the beginning.

It was Stephens idea to go camping, he loved camping, always spending time in the woods and trying to convince us to come with. That weekend we were all free so we decided fuck it, why not? It had been a while since we had all gotten together properly and had a laugh. The plan was simple, grab a few tents and some food, a couple of beers, maybe a few joints and Stephen would help us with all the outdoorsy stuff. We arrived early enough and started out, the hike was longer than I expected it to be, and I was in worse shape than I thought. All of us were really, except Stephen, he was laughing and joking the entire way, trying to keep up morale. When we got to the camp site he chose we were all tired, but we took a short break and got everything set up with minimal fuss. The weather was nice out, sunny and warm but not too hot. The night was supposed to be cool, but not cold. We all had our jobs to do, get fire wood, help set up the tents, that kind of stuff. Nothing too interesting happened really, it was just a normal day. That night, after we had a few beers and smoked a few of the joints I had to take a piss. So I left the camp and started walking. I always needed a bit of privacy to go, if there were people around I just couldn’t. I made sure to keep an eye on the fire and what direction I was going in so I wouldn’t get lost. One of the others, I’m not sure who, called out they’d send a search party if I wasn’t back in ten minutes. It didn’t take me long to find a good spot.

I was finishing up when I looked up at the sky, it was a clear night and there were so many stars out, it was beautiful, I’d never seen anything like it. Most of the time if you looked up you’d see a couple of stars, and even then they were most likely satellites. I don’t know how long I was looking up at the sky, it was kind of hard to keep track of time at that point, but then I noticed something. A sudden burst of light to my left. I looked out and could see it over the trees, it looked like light pollution for a town or city, but I knew that couldn’t be it. Stephen had guided us out here and said there wasn’t anything around for miles and miles. Whatever it was was close. I moved my way through the trees, until I came to a ridge, and I saw it. A town. It was so close but there was no noise of traffic, nothing. Just silence. I didn’t notice the quiet at first because I started to laugh. Stephen always bragged about being an experienced outdoors man and he had managed to get us all turned around. I was looking forward to making a few jokes at his expense.

I found my way back to the campsite easily enough. I sat down and waited for a moment, finally it came and I casually asked about the town. Stephen got a weird look on his face and he told me there wasn’t any town or village anywhere near us. I started laughing then, I made a few jokes though I don’t really remember them. He was so insistent that I must have imagined it that I stood up and told him to follow me.

We stood on the ridge, Stephen was staring in disbelief, the others were cracking more jokes. Stephen hadn’t said anything since we got to the ridge, he looked at us, his eyes were slightly wide with fear and he asked why there wasn’t any sound. The others didn’t seem to take much notice of that, they shrugged it off, it was late, the town wasn’t terribly large, everything had probably shut down. But I could see cars sitting on the roads, they weren’t moving, but they weren’t parked up either. One of the others suggested that we go and check it out. I felt a little  scared, but I figured we’d be safe enough, probably just some small backwards town where everything closed at sundown. Stephen didn’t really want to go, which I found strange, he was always the brave one, pushing us all forward. As we made our way down the ridge he trailed along behind all of us. He didn’t say anything, but I could feel the unease from him. It was around this point that I realised that Stephen and I were by far the soberest in the group. The others had practically started drinking and smoking as soon as camp was set up. As we got closer I could feel it, something heavy in the air. The guys ahead were being too loud, too disruptive. I kept trying to get them to quiet down, I told them that we didn’t want to get hassled by any cops out here, but really I just didn’t want them breaking that heavy, oppressive quiet.

It didn’t take us long to reach the outskirts and everything seemed normal at first. Houses with blinds closed but lights on, cars parked in driveways. As we went I felt more and more uneasy, even the guys had started to keep it down. They stopped making stupid jokes and were talking in half whispers. We had also started to walk in more of a group formation, pulling in closer to one another, whereas before we were spread out.

It was when we reached a group of shops that we saw what was really wrong with the town. There were cars in the road, with drivers sitting up behind the wheels but not moving, there were people inside the restaurant, frozen mid-bite. At first I thought they were wax dummies, the others seemed to agree. We looked around for a little bit, but I was really starting to freak out. I approached one of the cars and gently tapped on the window, the person inside didn’t move and I started to feel a bit silly. Obviously they were just wax, it was some weird new amusement or something. But then I noticed that the wax dummy was breathing, her chest was moving up and down so slowly I had almost missed it. The other two didn’t want to go, they wanted to stay and explore, take pictures for the internet, after all we were the first people to get a look at this. I tried to tell them about the breathing but they dismissed it. Me and Stephen eventually convinced them we should get out, that there had to be security in a weird place like this and we didn’t want to get caught. We turned and started to go back the way we came. We had gone maybe ten feet before there was a high pitched whine in the air, we all winced and covered our ears. I turned to look for the source and saw that the people were starting to move. Slow, repetitive and jerky, but they were moving. I felt like my breath caught in my throat, I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. The others hadn’t noticed yet, I wanted to call out, to warn them. That’s when I saw her. She was about average height with long brown hair and white skin. She looked normal enough but there was something off about her. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but it was in the way she moved, like she was still learning how. The noise stopped as suddenly as it began and we could all hear her footsteps, heavy and kind of dragging. There were noises, snippets of music coming from the restaurant, a weird mechanical rumble from the cars. Like everything was stuttering and trying to start properly. The others had spotted her too, one of the guys raised his hand, he was about to call out to her but Stephen grabbed him. I could barely hear the scuffle over the sudden noise, but she had heard it. Her head whipped around. We could all feel it, that heavy gaze. She shouted something at us, but none of us could make out what she was saying. We all turned and ran.

The entire town seemed to be waking up and I knew with absolute certainty that we needed to get out before that happened. We were at the outskirts when everything finally started again. I was the last one out, behind the others, making sure no one tripped though they seemed to have sobered up considerably. I felt this awful, piercing pain in my head, it was like my head was in a vice that was trying to break open my skull. I kept running and the pain became worse, it was blinding. A few minutes later I came to, I was being half carried and half dragged by the others. I had passed out at some point and had thrown up on myself. The others were pale and shaky, but I had seemed to have gotten the worst of whatever it was. I could still feel it as we walked, though the further away we got the less it hurt.

We got back to our campsite and quickly packed, starting the trek back to the car. When we got home we tried doing some googling, to find out anything about the town, but there was nothing, nothing at all. It didn’t exist. We figured it was just some weird government thing, they couldn’t of known who we were so we figured we were in the clear.

Then we started seeing them. More people like that woman, they looked normal but there was just something off about them. I died two weeks after that camping trip. We were going away again, it had been planned for months. Stephen was driving, we were supposed to go across the country for two months, see what there was to see. I wasn’t feeling great, I was jumpy and nervous since I had seen that damn town. The others seemed to have moved past it better than I had. The other two had taken to saying that it wasn’t that bad, that we had just been too drunk and high and we had half imagined most of it anyway.

I cancelled going on the trip that morning. They drove to my house to convince me to go. Stephen even loaded up my half packed bag and everything, but I refused. They got a little pissy with me, not that I blame them. They drove off, my bag still in the car, there had been a bit of an argument and we had all forgotten about it. It was an hour later that I realised my phone had been in the bag, it wasn’t anything special, I was never big on carrying a phone around anyway. I figured I’d just pick up something cheap the next time I was out shopping.

I saw the news report a few hours later. The car had been in a pile up, no survivors. They could barely even identify the passengers of Stephens car. Mostly it was down to guess work. There were four of us that were supposed to go on the trip, there were four bodies. I was still in shock, the cameraman panned over the mangled wreckage of cars and I could see them, every emergency personnel there gave off that vibe, that they weren’t really people. It was then that I knew I had to run. It sounds crazy, even after everything that happened, but I could just feel it. I didn’t want anyone else in danger, so I didn’t tell anyone.

I don’t know for sure who that fourth person was, but I have a suspicion. There was a hitchhiker in the area, around our age, looked kinda like me, same height and everything. We were all kind of friends in that we’d always pick him up if we saw him hitching. I think he was the fourth body. I don’t know if they knew it was him at the time, I don’t even know if they know it now. They know it wasn’t me though. I was able to hide for a few years before I saw another one of them. They spotted me, their eyes never leaving me as I ran. The story broke not long after. It’s weird. I could see it happening on the news, the way the story shifted and changed. Do you remember the absolute panic in the early days? The droves of people that went out there looking for their loved ones? No? Of course you don’t. No one really does, but it’s out there if you look. Footage that’s floating around on the internet, photos. Little bits and pieces that were missed out in the clean-up. They’ve left me alone for the most part now that they see everyone is buying it. But I can’t go back, not now, after all this time. How could I even explain it to my family? I’m trusting you here, that you’ll be able to tell my story, but screw it up a bit more, change the details. I only named Stephen as it was his car that crashed and everyone knew he never let anyone else drive that car of his, even though it was a bit of a shitbox.”

The man took another drink from his coke, this time draining the glass. He reached across the table and shook hands with the man sitting across from him. “I’m not going to see you again. I’m not going to answer any questions. Good luck, you’re going to need it.” He slid from the booth and walked out of the diner.

The man sitting at the table, turned off his small recorder. He took another sip from his coffee. If he had this meeting two months ago, hell even a month ago, he would have dismissed it all as the ramblings of a mad man. He looked out the window and a man sitting on the bench across the road caught his eye. He wasn’t sure why at first, the man looked normal enough, grey suit, newspaper in hand. It took him a minute to spot what was wrong. The man was turning the pages of his newspaper every ten seconds. He watched as the man finished it, then opened it from the front and started again.

He shook his head and smiled to himself, he was just on edge, that was all. When he glanced at the man again the man was looking right at him, his eyes flat and emotionless. As he watched the man continued to turn the pages every ten seconds. Not even looking down. He stood from the small booth, not bothering to finish his coffee, he threw some money on the table, enough for what was ordered and a tip and he quickly left the diner. As he walked he kept glancing behind himself, expecting to see the man with the newspaper following him, still turning pages, but there was no one there.

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