She rested her head against the window pane watching the brightly glowing lights rhythmically pass them by as they drove up the highway. The radio was playing quietly in the background and the muffled hum of the car in the dimness of the dashboard lights was almost soothing. Eric had borrowed his parents' SUV figuring that they needed a sturdier ride for the stretch which was going to involve unpaved roads. Besides, the added bulk seemed like an extra comfort as they had no idea of what they were going to run into.
She glanced at the bags in the backseat. They had hastily gathered some basic supplies, a little food and drink in case they would end up spending more time on the road, and an extra layer of clothes preparing for the damp coldness of the autumn night. Their intention was to start their search at the Lewis family cabin and expand their search from there should there be a need for it. Granted they knew the cabin was now a sealed murder scene and they needed to make sure it remained undisturbed, but at the same time the cabin's immediate vicinity was a good place for them to start their search. With any luck they might be able to find something the police would have never noticed.
Images of the events at the morgue flashed in her eyes. The sight of Brandon lying on the dissection table was permanently imprinted in her mind and it came back to haunt her at regular intervals. She had seen photos of the others too. The same injuries, some even worse.
She thought of their pale faces, blue mouths, the seeming stillness of their closed eyes, a tranquility that did not match with the bruising that covered them all. Dried blood everywhere, the gaping gashes with ragged flaps of skin hanging loose where the flesh was gone.
She shivered with disgust. The more she thought of the sights she had seen the more she worried about Mac. Should they succeed in finding him, there was no telling in what condition. Chances were they were already too late, but she refused to accept the option until they recovered his body.
"A penny?" Eric hazarded seeing her lost in her thoughts. They were going to be exiting the highway soon.
"Just really worried," she sighed instinctively trying to wrap the padded vest she was wearing better around her. "I can't stop thinking about him..." she added wanting to continue, but words stopped halfway in her mouth. At the same time there were so many questions and yet so few things to say. She could only imagine what Eric was going through.
"Me neither," Eric admitted and shifted lanes. The next few miles would be traveled in complete darkness and for the first time he was really not looking forward to the prospect. He knew the road to the cabin well, but never before had he had to worry about what might be waiting for them in the shadows.
The steady and even hum of the highway changed into the crunching of gravel. The only light besides the headlights of the SUV was the bright full moon in the partially cloudy sky. They instinctively tensed. She could swear every time she looked around she was seeing something move in the scenery as they passed it by. Even the tall trees appeared as if they were arching over the road, reaching for them with their long branches.
She tried to soothe herself by blaming it all on her vivid imagination. As a student of comparative literature she had apparently been exposed to too many elements that were now feeding her most primal fears. She really needed to stop reading classic horror and move on to something lighter.
The road arched following the bends of Otter Creek, rising and falling according to the surrounding hillside. The moon cast a long silvery stripe across the dam reservoir far in the distance, reflecting from the tall grey wall of the massive structure. Even the surface of the dark water seemed somehow restless.
The car radio began to crackle as they got further away from civilization. She checked the time from her cellphone only to notice that the network connection had begun to fade with the signal indicator flickering on and off randomly. She knew there was a cell tower not far from them that was intended to provide basic communication for the local cabins and law enforcement. Reception could be spotty, at best, but she did find it slightly strange that her phone still hadn't connected to the network.
Eric maneuvered past some larger rocks that had cascaded down from a sheer cliff onto the road. The warning signs for possible landslides had not been scattered along the road for nothing. Making the last hill down towards a narrow wooden bridge crossing the creek he was thankful for the fact that they were nearly at their destination. He could already see the clearing of the cabin among the treetops.
The entire car swerved as Eric suddenly slammed the brakes, the tires skidding on the pebbles. Bonnie managed to grab a hold of the dashboard as she lurched forward in her seat.
The empty road ahead of them had suddenly filled with a group of young deer that seemed to have appeared from nowhere. Instead of instinctively rushing away right across the road, the deer had stopped dead on their tracks, all of them facing the bright lights of the SUV. For a fleeting moment, the animals seemed immobile, however, not transfixed by the bright lights of the vehicle, but as if they were staring directly at the people inside. Then, almost in unison, they suddenly turned to look back at the woods from where they had come and quickly fled across the road disappearing into the darkness between the trees.
All that was left behind was the monotonous rumbling of the car's engine.
"What the hell was that?" Eric breathed. Surely there was plenty of wildlife in the surrounding hills, but never had he encountered anything like this. He had heard of some of the other cabin owners seeing a lonely animal or two from time to time, but never had they moved in groups like this.
Bonnie swallowed hard, feeling her heart was about to burst out of her chest. With tensions running high a good scare was about the last thing they needed at this point.
"I do not want to know," Bonnie muttered under her breath leaning back in her seat, as Eric shifted his foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator and the car started to roll forward slowly. "I really don't," she rolled her eyes at the surrounding darkness hoping that this was going to be the peak of excitement for the night.
"Well, isn't it good that this car has good brak..." Eric turned to give her an encouraging smile as they started down the last hill towards the bridge.
Then everything went dark.
Eric never had the chance to operate the brakes. Whatever it was that lunged in front of them was massive in size and moved quickly but, above all, incredibly strong. There was nothing they could have done to prevent the collision.
The metal chassis of the car yielded, screaming a desperate cry as it folded into a crumpled pile like an accordion, the hood of the car rippling like an empty soda can as it bent inwards with the rest of the vehicle's front. The front axle of the car snapped in half like a brittle twig leaving the tires scrambling for a hold in the air. The SUV skidded sideways and plunged front first against the wooden railing of the little bridge crossing the creek. The weather-worn beams did not stand a chance against the mass of the car. With one long groan they gave way and the SUV plummeted into the icy currents.
And then everything was quiet.
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The foregoing sample is excerpted from "They Wait in the Woods" by S. M. Sevón. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permisson from S. M. Sevón, firstname.lastname@example.org.