This is the beginning excerpt of my suspense short story from Twisted Reveries, published by Inklings Publishing. The story is about Louise, a woman forced to fight for survival after a strange turn of events.
She would have to tell everyone that Brian wasn’t coming. They would think it was something simple. They would assume he was stuck at the hospital working a holiday shift or perhaps pale and febrile under a quilt at home. The truth would shock them.
“Brian and I broke up.” She told the empty car. “So he’s not coming to Thanksgiving.” It helped to say it aloud, to hear her own voice confirm the truth. She knew when she said it at the snowy threshold of her parents’ home, still holding her duffel bag and the store bought pumpkin pie, her mother would shake her head and refuse to believe it.
“Lou,” her mother would put a chubby hand on her daughter’s shoulder, “this is all temporary I’m sure! Don’t worry dear, he’ll take you back.”
He was the successful one. He was the well-mannered, charming man she had been with since he was a boy. Since she was a girl. They had fallen in love in high school, as children do. And then one particularly cold day in November he had sat her down on the end of their marital bed and explained to her rather calmly that he had fallen in love with a man.
She told herself that she would keep it a secret from her family for their own good. They believed he was the best thing to ever happen to her, that Brian had pulled their awkward teenage daughter out of her dark bedroom and made her a functional adult.
Louise supposed they were right. So she felt it selfish to tell the truth.
She didn’t like driving up north. She was used to being the passenger, feet on the dash and a lukewarm coffee propped on her chest. Last year she had fallen asleep watching the fluffy snow smudge her window. Now the sky was steel gray. There had been freezing rain for the last several miles. She concentrated on the road ahead so hard her hands locked around the steering wheel like claws.
The sky was darkening rapidly. She pushed down the handle to make the wipers go full blast. It didn’t help. The icy rain hardened on her windshield. Louise slowed to a crawl, unable to see more than a few feet ahead. She wished she was already there. She didn’t look forward to the faces and whispers, but she was desperate to get off the road and be on her parent’s sofa with a glass of egg nog and Addy, her eager and plump little niece, on her lap.
At this rate, chugging along on the slickened snow, she wouldn’t be there for another twenty agonizing minutes.
The color came then. The flash of orange in the greyish black. She almost slammed her foot onto the brake, it was instinct after all, but she pumped the brake instead, as her father had taught her. She spun only a little, just enough of a rotation to sicken her stomach. Her hands pressed into the steering wheel even deeper.
“Shit!” She hissed. Her belly lurched and turned. Her body shook as she pulled the lever to park.
The car was now across both lanes of traffic. Louise was thankful she was on her familiar County Road 21, desolate and quiet. No semi would be pushing through the freezing rain to run her over.
She caught her breath and then willed her quivering legs to get out and see what possible thing had been bright orange and walking across the road in the bitter night. And it was night. The dim rays of twilight had bled away in just a few icy minutes.
Louise unbuckled and stepped into the blackness. Although she wore her sensible wool coat and solid boots, the freezing rain was still able to sting her cheeks and bare hands. She adjusted her faux-fur hat over her straight, raven black hair. The headlights of her Toyota illuminated the woods lining the road. There was nothing but dead trees and blackened, dirty snow.
The hunter was to her left, sitting near the ditch. She first saw the strips of reflective tape on his orange vest; they twinkled in the eerie light. She then saw his figure, sort of slumped but still upright. Steamy breaths puffed from his mouth.
“Oh my God! Did I hit you?!” Louise ran to him, into the dark.
The man shook his head but his movement seemed slow and stunned. “Did I hurt you?” She kneeled beside him.
“No, no. I’m okay.” The hunter was slender with a gaunt face and bulging eyes. His camouflage hat, lined with fleece, was pulled down over his ears.
“If I was going any faster, Jesus…” Louise steadied herself on her bent legs. “Can I help you up?” She reached out to him.
He looked into her eyes and then pressed his lips together. “Ummmmmmm.”
She was afraid he had had a stroke or a concussion. “Sir?”
The hunter took in an enormous breath and then leaned back as though he were in his favorite armchair and not in a mound of dirty slush. “Where’s Brian?”
“Excuse me?” Louise had the sudden urge to stand up. But she didn’t.
The hunter cupped his gloved hands around his lips and yelled toward Louise’s empty car “BRIAN! BRIAN YOU STUPID FUCKER!? YOU IN THEREEEE?”
Louise fell on her ass. She felt the ice through her jeans. “What?” Her sick stomach had returned as though she was spinning once more.
“I don’t think Brian’s in there.” The skinny man in the orange vest mused to himself. “I don’t think he is.”
Louise tried to find purchase on the ice and snow. She tried to dig her heels into the snow and push her body up. But the hunter leapt forward like a spider. He was on top of her before she could scream.
Louise tasted his musty glove as he shoved his fingers into her mouth. The hunter pushed down on her throat with his other hand as she kicked and wiggled. He was thin but strong. Blackness, even darker than the November night, clouded her sight. She tried to look up at his face, into his eyes. She thought perhaps, as her mind slipped away, there would be an answer in his eyes.
If you want to read more of "A Flash of Orange" check out my book Twisted Reveries: Thirteen Tales of the Macabre, a collection of strong women in suspenseful, spooky stories: