Tessa Schlesinger was born with ink in her genes. She is a teller of stories, an author, a poet, and a writer.
The Shadow People...
A feeling of desolation swept through Ian as he pushed the spare wheel onto the axle. For a moment, he shuddered, then he continued with the business of changing the flat.
Almost as if she had read his thoughts, Janet spoke.
“It’s got a desolate feel about it,” she said as she eyed the mist around them. “Why’d the car have to break down here, in the middle of nowhere?”
Ian didn’t reply. He had slowly become aware that the reason for the drag on the car was a puncture in the front wheel. He had stopped just before they reached the crest of the hill, one of many in the mountain pass.
Now he worked quickly and was thankful that the jack was of the hydraulic variety and easy to use. The spare wheel was also ready for use. It was cold outside and he wanted to be on his way.
“Nearly done,” he said as he looked up to eye the newly placed ring on the left hand of his bride.
Janet climbed back into the red Citroen, and viewed the valley and peaks from a warmer perspective. Everywhere the greens and browns were touched by grey. It was icily cold and she was looking forward to arriving at their chalet in the small mountain village of St.Martin.
They had long decided that they would spend their honeymoon skiing as they were both keen about winter sports. St. Martin’s boasted year round snow, unusual this far south, but closer to home and saving them a long journey north.
Outside, Ian lowered the jack, folded it back into its collapsible form, and returned it to its wrap. He walked to the driver’s side, dumped the tools in the back seat and got into the car.
“Hope they’ve got a nice fire waiting for us,” he said as he leaned over to place a kiss on her lips and started the car. It purred gently in response and climbed the remaining bit to the top of the hill.
“It’s really quite creepy, you know,” said Janet as she viewed the landscape around them. “The mist seems to take away the life of the land.”
“Great view, though.”
Janet turned to look at her husband, and as she did so, she glanced up towards the rear view mirror. “What’s that?” she asked.
Ian’s look followed Janet’s eyes. He saw a small piece of dark grey fog hovering over the rear view mirror.
“Some mist,” he said.
“Yes, I can see that, but since when does a small piece of fog hang on its own in the air?”
“Don’t know,” he said, “some sort of anomaly.”
He reached up to touch it and quickly withdrew his hand.
“God it’s as cold as ice.” He turned the heat up in the car. “Heat will probably melt it.”
Janet continued to look at it while Ian focused on the driving. It didn’t seem to be getting any smaller. In fact, quite the opposite. It seemed to be gaining size. Giving herself a mental shake, she inserted a CD into the player and the strains from alien III filter through. She felt a sense of foreboding.
She turned to look at the mirror again.
“Told you, it was nothing. Heat probably melted it.” Ian glanced into the mirror. “No, it’s not gone. It’s behind us – in the back seat.”
The sounds outside...
When Horror Finds a Face...
Janet turned to look. “It is, too.”
“What do you think it is?”
“I don’t know but I don’t like it.”
“Don’t worry, darling, it’s probably nothing. Just an anomaly of some sort, like I said.” Ian turned up the heat again. He changed the CD for something less ominous. Neil Diamond’s Hot August Nights.
“Ian, it’s getting bigger.”
Ian heard the panic in her voice and glanced through the rear view mirror onto the back seat. She was right. It did seem to be getting bigger. He stopped the car, then turned around in his seat to look at the thing. It was now about five times the size it was when he first saw it. It also seemed to be darker, more solid.
He climbed out of the car, opened the rear door, picked up the jack and waved it through the fog trying to disperse it. It shrunk, condensing itself into a darker, smaller shape.
Ian’s flesh crept.
“I don’t know what it is, but it’s fifty miles to the chalet. I think we must get there as quickly as possible. It’s only a bit of mist, probably nothing.”
“It’s a ghost. You know, the kind of thing Stephen King writes about.” There was a pause.
She turned to adjust the radiator still higher and found it was at its highest level. A thought occurred to her. “You know, it’s been growing steadily in the warmth. Maybe, we should turn the heat down.”
Instantly, she felt a chill. “I think it heard me.”
“Don’t get carried away, honey.” He turned to the radiator and adjusted it to a lower level. Instantly, he, too, felt the chill. “God, that’s strange, but I think you’re right.”
He put his foot down flat on the pedal and wished the road away. It continued to stretch ahead, lost in the haziness. It grew colder in the car.
“It’s getting really cold,” said Janet.
“I don’t think we should pt the heat back on again. Grab a coat.”
“It’s on the back seat and I don’t want to put my hand through that thing.”
Once more they lapsed into silence. The CD came to an end. Neither put on more sound.
“Forty miles to go,” Ian said, calculating the distance left. “We can make it in 20 minutes.”
“I wish we were there.”
Ian forced a laugh. “Just think of the story we can tell our grandkids.”
“If we have any grandkids.”
They sat, quiet for a while, each focused on wishing the miles away, acutely aware of the presence in the back seat. The miles seemed to drag. It grew colder in the car and both started to shiver.
“I think we have to put the heat back on,” Janet said, “otherwise we’re both going to die from hypothermia.”
“In 15 minuts?”
“Ian, I’m really cold.”
Janet turned to put the heat on, all the time looking into the rear view mirror. Almost instantaneously she saw the mist on the seat behind her begin to expand.
“It expands with heat,” she said.
They both sent anxious glances into the mirror now. The mist seemed to be taking shape as well. They watched it for a few more minutes, each glancing surreptitiously into the mirror.
“Turn the heat down, Janet.”
Janet turned to do so. Once more, the chill hit her. Only this time the cold was an iciness that chilled her to the bone, so cold she almost felt her life leave her.
“I can’t,” she said. There was terror in her voice. Ian put out his hand to turn the heat off. Instantly, he felt the ice, as cold as anything he had ever felt. Colder. He forced himself to reach the knob. His hands were trembling and he felt a cold sweat run down his face.
His fingers touched the radiator but they were so cold that they had lost all feeling. He drew them back to the steering wheel and pushed the pedal deeper into the floorboard, but the car did not creep past its 120 mph limit. He damned the cruise control that kept the car to a safe speed.
“We’ve got about 20 miles,” he said. “Five minutes.”
“It’s got a face now, Ian.”
Ian glanced up to the mirror. He felt its face, rather than saw it. There was also a new malevolence in the air.
“I don’t think we’ve got five minutes,” Janet whispered. “What are we going to do?”
Ian put his foot on the break. Hard. The wheels shrieked as the tires shed its rubber on the tar. The car swung around, coming to a stop on the gravel of the opposite shoulder of the road, perilously close to the side.
“Get out,” he yelled, simultaneously yanking his door open and jumping. He rolled on the ground and felt the pebbles bite into his skin.
In the car, Janet found herself paralyzed with cold. She couldn’t move. Slowly, the mist rolled forward, coming to a halt beside her. Helplessly, she looked through it and willed her husband to help her.
Outside, Ian looked up to the car and saw his wife still sitting there.
“Get out! Get out!” he yelled again. She didn’t. He scrambled up, running towards her door, opened it and looked straight into the face of hell. The mist was moving into Janet.
He pulled her, but she seemed heavy. Cold.
“Come, come,” he yelled. Still, she seemed glued to her seat. And then the cold hit him, and he let go, aware that he was falling.
He awoke a few minutes later. Janet was leaning over him. For a moment, he wasn’t sure it was her, as she seemed to be a little hazy, something not quite right. Then she spoke and he was filled with relief.
“Are you okay?”
“Perfectly,” she said.
“Where is it?”
“It’s gone. After you pulled me out of the car, it followed, and then disappeared.”
Ian was silent for a moment.
“That was the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me,” he said.
“Never mind, darling. It’s a good story to tell our grandchildren one day.”
“I can do with some coffee. Anything left in the flask?”
“Yes, it’s on the back seat. I’ll get it.” As she turned to open the door, Ian got up and made his way back to the driver’s side of the car. He climbed into his seat, but not before taking a good look around.
“You sure it’s gone?”
“Yes,” she said, and poured him a cup of coffee. She handed it to him and he sipped it, the sweetness sending strength to his bones. She poured herself one, too, and he watched as she sipped it. He could almost see her warming up, her skin taking on a rosier hue.
“We’d better be going then,”
“I can’t wait,” Janet smiled.
The miles passed quickly, and it didn’t seem more than a few minutes before the first lights of the small village shone through the mist. There was a signpost as the first house came into view. It read, “Welcome to St. Martin’s.”
Ian drove through the village, remembering the directions that the receptionist had given him over the phone.
“St. Marin lies just beyond the Hamlet, about sixty miles. If you take the off-shoot from the N40 and just drive straight, you’ll find us at the end of the road.”
“I didn’t know there was an off-shoot on the N40.”
“Oh, there is. There is. When you get to the village, just drive through to the end, and we’re on the left.”
St. Martin’s Chalet came into view as he rounded the corner, just as the receptionist had explained.
He turned left into the car park, stopped the car and turned to face his wife. She was staring straight ahead.
“Welcome to St. Martins,” she said. “The ice here is very good.” She turned around then, and he saw her eyes.
They were not the eyes of the woman he loved. They were not the eyes of Janet, his wife. They were other eyes and then the noticed the hazy condition of her skin, fluctuating almost. She reached out to him but before she touched him, he opened the door and toppled out of the car.
He saw the porter come out of the Chalet and ran towards him, all explanation beyond him.
“Help,” he whispered, “Help.”
“Welcome to St. Martin’s” the porter said, “the ice here is very good.”
Ian looked up into the face of the porter. He saw the eyes, the same eyes that he had seen in his wife. He turned to look at the body of his wife, the body now moving rapidly towards him.
He stood for a moment, paralyzed, and then his feet, answering some deeper call, took flight. He ran down the drive way, into the street, and kept running long after the village was behind him.
© 2019 Tessa Schlesinger
Larry Slawson from North Carolina on March 20, 2019:
Enjoyed! Thank you for sharing!