Adam squinted into the weather, not really seeing but able to follow the white lines on the road. He cursed for the fourth time in ten minutes as the heavy rain lashed the windscreen, blew against the glass and road and created a fine spray. He had offered to drive out of kindness, the younger men all wanting to drink the night away, he himself preferring a good chat at his age. If he had known at the time how much of the night they would drink away he might not have offered. He glanced at the clock on the dashboard. Four in the morning.
“How much further is it?” One of the lads whined like a child eliciting much laughter from his mates.
“Too bloody far in this weather!” Adam called over his shoulder with a good-natured smile on his round face.
“I need the toilet, I feel sick, I’m hunnnggry!” The lad, Dave Whitton, drew his words out mimicking a child. The rest of the group laughed heartily at him.
Adam fished in the cooler bag on the floor of the passengers side and drew out a coldish beer. He tossed it over his shoulder. He earned more laughter and cheers for this act. He smiled to himself as he heard the can being popped open, fizzy lager squirting from the top. The lads were well pissed, spraying each other with shaken cans and laughing like a bunch of kids. He felt glad to be a part of it really, even if he was sober. He peered at the glass again.
Something flew straight for them.
Adam swerved to the next lane to avoid it.
“What the..?” He slowed right down, the few other drivers out at this hour blaring horns angrily at him.
“Oi! Adam what’re you doin’?” A few of the lads who had been the most disrupted by the manoeuvre shouted at him.
“Sorry lads, I thought I saw something.” He gulped down the panic that had risen from his hammering heart. He really thought he had seen something. But the road remained clear, in front and behind.
Adam blinked several times and focused harder on the grey tarmac that glistened with a river of water on it. He flexed his fingers and licked his lips. He really just needed to get home.
It flew at the passenger door next.
Adam noticed it a second before it darted away. He yanked the wheel hard to avoid colliding with it.
“Did you see that? Tell me you saw it?” He stared at the empty glass so long the van drifted over to the fast lane.
“Adam! Look out mate!” Dave shouted so loud in his ear he instinctively pulled the wheel back the way they had come. He missed the speeding driver in the small sports car by inches.
“Did you see it?” He looked into the mirror, could see white faces staring back at him.
“Adam mate, we didn’t see nothing. It’s the rain…” Tony patted Adam’s shoulder before resting his head back on the side of the van. Adam realised they wouldn’t see whatever it had been because of a lack of windows back there. To save money they had just hired a standard van, no luxuries of a mini bus for them.
“Yeah, you could be right.” A drop of sweat clinging to his top lip told him they weren’t right. He was sober for Chrissake.
He steered the van onto the slow lane and dropped the speed down to forty. It would take them longer but at least they would get home.
For the next ten miles they traveled as before. The group crammed into the back of the van on makeshift seats chatted noisily and Adam drove quietly and steadily. He had seen nothing else and felt inclined to think it might have been his tired imagination running away with him. He relaxed his grip on the steering wheel slightly and rolled his shoulders. He still felt tired but not as he had earlier. The van rumbled on reliably.
The bang came from the back.
Adam jumped as a few other heads turned to see what had happened. He opened his mouth to speak but before any words came out the back door flew open. A strong gust of wet wind attacked them.
“Jesus! Shut the bloody door!” Adam shouted to be heard above the road noise and weather, he could make out a few of the guys laughing uncontrollably. His patience was wearing thin.
One of the lads grabbed the door. He pulled it with all his might but the wind sucked his thin frame towards the road. He yelled at some of the others to get hold of him. They obliged but still had difficulty dragging him back inside. The door came with him, pure luck rather than calculated risk. Adam shook his head.
The peals of laughter and bravado stories soon died down in the back, Adam calmed down peacefully in the front. Perhaps something had blown at the van from the roadside. Bits of polythene and bags of rubbish were always being dumped by motorways, he reasoned with himself. His mind had begun to sink back into that warm place with cotton wool round the edges. He blinked and opened his window a crack.
The window allowed the wind to whistle at the side of his head, blowing the short grey hairs up and chilling his ear. He felt better already. For a moment.
It smacked the windscreen so hard a huge crack spread up from bottom to top. Adam didn’t have time to swerve or brake or do anything sensible but plough on. He could see darkness, no shape or form or colour or light, just inky, clinging darkness on the front of the van. He started to ask the others if they could see it but he could tell from their low voices and amiable chat they hadn’t.
What was it?
He realised he couldn’t see. Quickly he wound down the side window, poking his head out into the wet, cold night to peer up ahead. Something flapped in his face. Something black.
Adam hit the brakes just as another one landed on the passenger side. He stared in disbelief. It had eyes.
Piercing blue eyes glared at him from a mass of shapeless black. He fumbled with the window trying to close it. A bang at the bottom of the drivers door told him it was too late.
With renewed energy he pulled the window handle harder. It came off in his hand. He whimpered. A black shape was crawling up the side of the van straight for the window, the open window he reminded himself.
His feet hit the brake harder as he struggled to see the road ahead. He found his eyes constantly straying to the bits of black appearing beside him. The eyes on the opposite side bored into his head, hatred emanating from them. He wondered if a pair would appear right beside his cheek any second.
More of the shape materialised, flimsy dark material and sharp claw-like fingers. He had almost pulled over completely now.
“Adam, what’s up now?” One of the lads in the back asked him.
“Can’t you see them?” Adam turned his head slightly to gauge the expressions on faces. He was met by a sea of tired and yet not frightened eyes.
“See what mate?”
“The things!” He spat the word out not entirely sure it was a correct description but unable to find the right words. He snapped his eyes back to the window. The windscreen was now intact. The velvet darkness gone.
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to drive us all the way home you lot, I’m seeing things.” He indicated to the hard shoulder and drew the van to a halt.
“Aah, Adam don’t make us sleep in the van, It’s freezing and Dave’s farts stink!” Another round of laughter.
“I’m serious, I keep seeing stuff.” It all sounded so lame now the vehicle had stopped moving, the blackness had gone from the glass and the windscreen bore no evidence of being cracked. He wondered if any of the lads had spiked his tobacco with anything, wouldn’t put it past them. The cold air seeped into the van. Rain trickled down the outside.
They couldn’t sleep here, they’d die a death.
Adam pressed the clutch, rammed the van into first gear and pulled back onto the motorway as the men in the rear cheered him on. He didn’t want to sleep in the van any more than the rest of them. They were right, Dave’s farts did stink.
He wiped a hand over his eyes as they pulled across to the middle lane. He could sit here, lane-hog for the remainder of the journey. Nothing would happen, they were only doing fifty and he had no intentions of driving like a loony to get home ten minutes earlier. The main objective was to get home safe.
Carefully he steered the van up the motor way, the noise from the back rose and fell as the lads grew tired, he began to think it had all been his imagination.
Until he saw the black shape dive from above, swoop down in front of the van, miss the tarmac by inches and return to the sky. He shook his head. It couldn’t be happening. It had to be a bird of some kind. The black could be feathers, inky dark in the night and without firm substance. Birds with bright blue eyes?
He wouldn’t think about it. He thought he had seen eyes. Hell of a difference between thinking and knowing. Adam checked the sign as they passed it, only twenty miles to go. He needed to concentrate.
The noise began at the side of him.
A whooshing of air. Loud at first, growing louder. He glanced down at the door. It was closed.
Without being obvious Adam ran a hand along the seal of the door. It sounded open. The familiar whooshing of air as the vehicle raced through it. He could feel nothing however so returned his hand to the wheel. In the back of the van many of the lads had fallen asleep, alcohol taking over their already tired minds. He smiled grimly and watched the road as it disappeared under the van.
Something stood right in front of the van.
Adam felt his eyes widening and heart hammering as he attempted to brake and swerve at the same time. The wheel slipped in his hands, the brakes couldn’t do the job fast enough. He shouted at the person to move, voices from behind him sounding miles away asking what was going on.
He could hear the wheels skidding, feel the van careering towards the person far too quickly to stop. He tried a last swerve on the wheel before the bump. The van slid on for a few more feet before coming to a halt. Adam covered his eyes. No-one moved for long seconds. Finally Adam took his hands away from his face.
“We’ve hit someone.” He told the others before opening his door. Standing in the middle of the motorway, peering at the lump on the road, he realised the enormity of what he had done. A couple of the lads got out of the back of the van and came round to stand with him.
“Are you sure it wasn’t a deer or something?” The lad shivered in the cool night air, much colder here than it had been in town.
“I know the difference between a fucking deer and a person!” Adam strode towards the body wishing he could just go back ten minutes and make someone else drive. He swallowed a dry lump that threatened to return, bringing with it the contents of his stomach.
He didn’t know what to expect. Churned bits of bloody meat, entrails, crushed skull, had he actually gone over the figure? Both wheels, front and back? His stomach tightened at the prospect of finding a bloody mess.
He could hear the lads behind him coughing in the cold night air. It was incredibly cold here, much colder than earlier. He shivered a bit himself even though he was built heartily enough. The lump on the road was almost ten feet away. He could make out nothing except a dark shape. His feet slowed as he neared the lump.
From behind he could hear a shout. It seemed miles away, not part of this whole disaster. He turned as though in a dream, any sense of urgency leaving his defeated body. It was Dave’s voice. What was he saying?
He focused on the group of men, the chaos and panic behind him. Christ! Something flapped round the young men, not just one something actually but several. He stood rooted to the spot, transfixed by the battle before him.
Black shapes circled over the lads, swooping down to tear at the men’s flesh with sharp talons and gleaming skin. Adam could feel himself swaying in the breeze. He couldn’t run to them, couldn’t even move off the spot. He just watched.
Watched as blood spurted up into the air at these flapping monsters, cries of agony accompanied the swoops they made, darkness seemed to envelope the whole seething mass of sharp teeth and talons, blood and screams. Adam found he had dropped to his knees right there in the middle of the motor way. How had he escaped all this? By having a victim of his own. He remembered the man he had knocked down. Strangely he felt more able to deal with that than to watch the carnage happening down the road.
But the lump was rising, not getting awkwardly to his feet as he should, but rising. Adam stared in horror as the inky blackness surrounded the lump, changing the shape to that of a larger man. He could see eyes on that darkness, hatred radiating from them. It would turn, see him, oh dear God!
He ran down the motorway, arms pumping, short stocky legs propelling him forward far slower than he would have liked. He could hear himself babbling incoherently. He could also hear the distinct sound of whooshing air. Like a huge bird was swooping down on him. A breeze ruffled his hair as something swooped over his head. He ducked down as he ran, scuttling like an insect. It was up ahead. Flying around in a circle. Coming back for him.
The screams from behind him had died down now and only a few moans and gurgles could be heard. He realised most, if not all, of the lads would be dead or dying. Then there would only be him. How many of them had there been? He couldn’t outrun all of them.
He veered off to the right, headed for the embankment. He had noticed a small opening running part way into the mound, probably so some guy could get to the drains or something, but large enough to hide in until someone came. He raced for it.
Flapping and swooping all around his ears, bits of warm liquid dripping onto his face as he ran, the cool night air whistling through his clothes as his arms and legs pumped. His lungs ached and burned, sweat dribbled down between his shoulder blades but he kept aiming for the tunnel. He could feel them closing in on him, more of them arriving to join the sport, only a few more metres to go. His lungs ached with the cold air and exertion, wanting to give up and slow down but not daring to.
He tripped. Cold damp tarmac rushed up and smacked him in the face. He whimpered like a child before clamping a hand on the blood that ran freely from his lip. He could feel part of his tooth embedded in the gash. Blood bubbled through his fingers. He got to his knees.
No movement. No sound. Nothing diving from the air like a giant bird of prey. Adam got to his feet. He walked the rest of the way while trying to stem the flow of blood from his lip, gasping and wheezing from the running. His tongue found the jagged edge on the broken tooth and refused to leave it alone. He reached the tunnel.
Complete darkness awaited him inside that tunnel. He glanced back at the van before entering. Several of the creatures devoured the bodies hungrily. He could make out their snarls as they fought over the best remains. But if they were occupied they might forget him, might not even need his flesh once they’d had their fill there. Guiltily he crouched down and entered the gap.
The complete darkness was darker even than he had imagined. His eyes seemed to be widening beyond the size of the sockets making him reel and spin in the blackness of that hole. He reached out to either side and found the edge of the embankment, crumbling damp soil.
He could still hear the rain on the road outside but nothing else. The silence felt as complete as the darkness inside this strange little tunnel. He moved further in not wanting the creatures outside to follow him. He hadn’t heard any yet so maybe they had given up on him and returned to the feast of his companions. He felt a sob catch in his throat for all those young lads, his mates. But what could he have done? If they had let him stop for a rest they might have missed all this, some other poor group of bastards would have got it instead. He choked the noise down.
Adam stumbled on through the thick darkness that almost suffocated him with its presence. He could feel the walls beginning to widen, one hand slipping into empty air as the other gripped the soil. His feet stumbled on faster too. He wondered if the end of the tunnel approached.
Empty dark, dank air surrounded him as he tumbled. His legs and arms thrashed about searching for a grip, he found nothing to hang onto and continued to plummet downwards. He thought he would surely die. A scream stuck in his throat, he didn’t want to die in silence, he wanted to call out for help, do something constructive that might save him, alert someone… He recalled the feast above and allowed the scream to remain stuck.
The floor raced up to smack him hard. Air whooshed out of him with a groan as he landed in a heap. His leg cracked as it twisted beneath his body. Broken he was sure. A sharp pain filled his lungs where the air had hastily vacated. He gasped and choked for breath, his hands were grazed and sore, his leg snapped underneath him, and he had pissed himself. The warmth down the front of his trousers did nothing towards comforting him. He imagined the ambulance arriving and finding him with urine stains down his pants. Then he wondered how they would know where to find him and why urine stains were important when death stalked him.
The gloom wasn’t complete down here. His eyes began adjusting as he lay in his broken mess on the floor. A shape here, something solid there. He knew he would never climb back up with or without a broken leg but there might be another way out, a way he could drag himself through. His hopes disappeared as he made out more in the darkness.
Some of the creatures from above were here waiting for him. Blood already smeared their chins as they carried ripped off limbs and torsos of some of the lads from above. Adam saw Dave’s head being dragged about as though it were a toy, the look of stark terror frozen on those features forever. He saw more of them. Bodies in pieces, whole corpses dragged down here, pools of blood and excrement, a complete tidy up of the area above.
He managed to elicit a muttering before they targeted his fresh body. The first few bites stung and dragged at his blood but after those he became oblivious, closed off from what was happening to him as they ripped chunks out of his flesh, swallowed his testicles, drank his blood and disemboweled him. He could feel his life ebbing away with each slow motion moment and he wondered if anyone would ever know where he had died. He had become roadkill and been effectively and efficiently disposed of. He turned his head to the entrance he had used to enter the deep tunnel of death just as the van blew up outside. He knew now they would be replaced in the burning vehicle and by the time their charred remains were found no-one would be any wiser about the way in which they had been murdered.
Adam closed his eyes and let out his last resigned breath.
(c) Tracy Foster, All Rights Reserved
Tags: Bloodlust-UK, Dracula, roadkill, Short Story, Tracy Foster, Vampire, Vampire Fiction, Writers
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