By: Sam Cavallo
“Are you kidding, Jamie! I told you we should have stopped at that gas station!”
The red beetle crawled to a stop, the fuel tank now reading below “E.” Jamie slammed her foot on the pedal again, just for good measure. She groaned and rested her head against the steering wheel, a flock of frightened birds taking flight as the horn beeped.
“I swear it was just at half a tank! I’ll just call a tow truck.”
Max crossed his arms, frustrated with his sister’s antics. He sighed dramatically as Jamie pulled her phone out of her sweatshirt pocket.
“What do you mean ‘uh oh’?”
“Uh oh as in there’s no service…”
Jamie unbuckled her seat belt and stepped out. Crumbling pavement and decaying leaves crunched beneath her feet. She slammed the door behind her, sending a jolt through the whole car. She stomped away down the road, back towards the gas station, Max scrambling after her.
“Wh- where are you going?”
“The moon, Max.” Jamie responded flatly, rolling her eyes as she turned around to face him. “I’m walking back to the station.”
“Well… I’m coming with you. There’s no way I’m sitting here in the dark all night,” he said shuddering.
Jamie turned towards the sky, just noticing the setting sun, squinting as its harsh rays poked through branches of red leaves. It was getting pretty low, she probably had an hour or so of sunlight left.
Sighing in defeat, she nodded. Max scurried to his sister’s side, eager to get back to civilization. His head swiveled around every time they heard a sound; a crow’s call, a falling branch, a squirrel searching for acorns. It was a vampire or a werewolf, he was sure of it.
* * *
“Jamie, are you sure you went the right way?”
“Max, the path is a straight line! Where else would I go?”
“I know, I just don’t remember it being this far away.”
Honestly, Jamie didn’t either. She was growing anxious now. The sun was nearly gone, a deep blue night replacing the warm glow of day. A gust of wind tossed her hair behind her shoulder and she shivered, pulling her hood tight over her head.
“Hey, I think I see a car up there!” Max broke out into a jog, calling out to the vehicle and whoever it may belong to.
Jamie followed suit, shouting “ Hello?” and “Who’s there?”. She nearly ran right into her brother when he came to such an abrupt stop. Max stumbled forward, swinging his arms to regain balance.
“Uh why’d you stop?” Jamie asked, mildly out of breath.
“It’s your car.”
“What? No it’s not.” She peered around his shoulder, a very similar red Volkswagen sat in the dark. But it couldn’t be hers, right?
Max grabbed the key from Jamie’s hand and stepped towards the car, turning the key in the driver side door. Sure enough, the door opened.
“Well, maybe we just have the same key, you know?”
Max reached in the back seat, picking up a jacket, his soccer team and last name embroidered on the sleeve, and threw it at his sister. She held the jacket in her hands, her eyebrows knit together.
“We must have made a wrong turn somewhere,” she assured him, tossing the jacket back.
“The path’s a straight line, Jamie!” He exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air. “You said it yourself!”
“We must have made a wrong turn somewhere.”
Jamie marched passed the car, which was now most certainly hers. Her mind swirled with possibilities. They were too busy talking to notice the split in the path, a tree branch fell after they had passed and was now blocking the view, they had to have missed something.
Max slipped his jacket on, shook his head, and took off after his sister. A gray fog settled low on the ground. Max was extra careful with his steps, not wanting to twist an ankle before his big tournament tomorrow, but kept a quick pace in order to catch up with Jamie. He was not about to be left behind.
He didn’t like the woods, or the fog, or the stupid birds that kept screaming at him. He didn’t like the cold and bitter night, or the way the shadows danced in the moonlight.
* * *
A car soundlessly approached in the dark. The driver beeped the horn, sending the siblings straight into the air. Jamie and Max whipped around to find a tan station wagon slowing down behind them.
“Jeez, ever heard of headlights?” Max groaned.
The car window rolled down revealing a woman wrinkled with age. Her long gray hair shone in the moonlight.
“What are you two doing out so late?” she pondered. “Your mother knows you’re out here?”
“She doesn’t. We’re kinda lost, actually. Tank’s empty too.” Max stepped forward, leaning down at the window.
“You poor things! You’re in luck, I’ve lived here all my life, I know these woods like the back of my hand. Get in, I’ll drive you to the gas station.”
Max reached his hand towards the door handle, the door opening towards him. Jamie’s hand was suddenly gripped on his shoulder. She shielded his body with her own, stepping in front of him.
“We’re good actually, my friend’s place is just down the street.” She smiled brightly. The woman’s smile, however, faltered. Jamie pushed the door closed firmly, tapping the side of the car. “But thank you so much for offering.”
The woman stared blankly ahead as she pulled away, tail lights fading as the vehicle trekked down the path.
“Why’d you do that?” Max screamed at his sister. “How are we supposed to get home?”
“She’s lived here all her life?” Jamie turned her gaze towards the direction of the station wagon, eyes narrowed, pointing to the license plate. Maine.
“Let’s keep going.”
* * *
Jamie shivered as she marched on. Max limped behind her, after tripping over a tree root. He grumbled angrily about his soccer tournament. Jamie stayed back, looping her arm around her brother, both warming herself up and relieving pressure on his ankle.
The sound of crunching gravel was followed by dim headlights illuminating the siblings. Jamie and Max turned to see a sensible sedan rolling towards them.
“Uh hey?” A man about mid-thirties stepped out of the car, his tie crooked in the wind. “Is that your car back there?”
Jamie stepped forward, nodding her head.
The man holds up his index finger, asking for a minute, before popping the trunk to reveal a fuel container. Jamie sighed in relief, taking another step towards the man before Max tugged on her arm.
“We’re good actually, just taking a little rest. Long drive.” Max gave a tight smile, his hand latched tightly at his sister’s elbow.
The man looked back at Max, eyes dark and sinister.
“Well, then, enjoy your walk. Be careful out here.” He slammed the trunk shut and retreated back into the car.
Jamie whirled on her feet, eyes bugging out of her head.
“Care to explain?”
“How’d he know we were out of gas?” The two turned around, watching the Maine license plate retreat down the bumpy road.
* * *
The fog was deep now, encasing the night in a gray blanket. Max swiped at the air furiously, making futile efforts to clear his view. The siblings held tight to each other for safety. Suddenly, yellow headlights were upon them, a horn sounding wildly. Brakes squeal as Jamie yanks Max out of the way.
“Oh my god! I am so sorry!” A girl about Jamie’s age threw the car door open, stepping out of the green jeep. “Are you okay?”
“No worries, just a little shaken.”
“You guys should not be out here in this fog! Come with me!” The girl now had each sibling by the shoulder, guiding them towards the jeep.
“No, no, really we’re okay. You don’t have to-”
The girl’s nails pressed deeply into their shoulders, pointed and sharp. When she spoke, her voice sounded different, more shrill.
“Oh, I’m not asking this time.”