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“Mummy, where’s the music gone?”

Carla tried to keep her voice calm and devoid of the nervous energy that was beginning to pulse through her body as she answered her son.

“It will come back, sweetie. The bad storm just made it go away for a little while.”

She pushed the large, round button on the car stereo to cease the static that was relentlessly roaring from the speakers.

Carla peered out her driver’s seat window. The white cloud hanging above was getting thicker and the snow was falling more consistently now. Her thumbnail instinctively slid between her teeth, a habit she’d clung to since her elementary school days.

She huffed impatiently. Her breath blurred her view of the scene outside the window so she turned back to face the red brake lights of the taxi cab in front of her. They seemed to be glowing brighter than before. The sky was darkening.

“I’m cold, mummy,” Toby whined from the backseat. She saw him shift in his seat in the rear view mirror, adjusting the seat belt to sit behind his shoulder, something she’d normally scold him for. 

Instead, she said, “Me too, Tobes,” as she pushed the air vent that had been facing towards her in his direction to allow more heat to warm his skin.

 A gust of wind made the car list slightly to one side. 

“The storm is blowing us away!” Toby cried.

“It can’t, darling. The car is too heavy for the wind to lift.” As she said the words, she realised she was convincing herself of them too. 

Carla looked to her left and saw the tops of the spruce trees lining the highway sway and bend against the wind and snow. She bit her lip and tapped her right foot gently against the accelerator. They hadn’t moved now for over 10 minutes. Something was wrong.

She clicked the wipers on to remove some ice and snow that was building there. It smudged her view and she cursed under her breath.

“Why aren’t we moving, mummy?”

The question caused a flicker of irritation because she didn’t know the answer and she desperately wanted to.

“I guess the storm might have caused a problem ahead,” she answered.

“Like an accident?” he pressed.

“I guess so.”

There was silence for a few minutes as he processed this. She figured he was thinking about the police cars that he might get to see. His latest obsession. They were the heroes that always beat the bad guys.

As Carla settled a debate in her mind about whether or not to cook dinner when they got home or just fetch some take away, providing the storm had passed by then, a strange sound filtered in through the glass windows. 

At first, she’d thought she’d imagined it. But then the sound came again. It made every hair on her body stand up. It was coming from the forest. 

“What was that?” Toby’s voice indicated that his body had had the same reaction as hers.

Carla’s heart beat faster. It had sounded like a wounded animal. One she’d never heard before.

“I-I’m not sure, Tobes,” she whispered. 

Attempting to see what had made that chilling noise, she peered out of the passenger window, but the trees were disappearing behind a white haze of snow. 

The sound entered the car again, louder this time. Carla’s spine stiffened and she tried to see if the taxi driver in front was just as confused as they were but all she could see were two faded red blurs that were rapidly disappearing behind a film of white. 

Her old Toyota Corolla groaned against another forceful push of the wind. 

“I’m scared, mummy,” Toby cried.

“It’s okay, baby. I’m here. We’ll be okay.”

Her mind was desperately trying to make sense of the sound. A coyote perhaps? A moose? They didn’t really get moose in this part of the country though. 

As her brain mulled over the possibilities, a different sound erupted. Much closer than the last.

It was a car horn. Loud and incessant. The taxi?

“Who is that?” Toby’s voice was loud and had the tone of an oncoming fit of tears. 

Her eyes narrowed as she tried desperately to see what was happening ahead of them. The faint red smudges were her only indication that there even was another car present ahead of her. 

Then they went out.

Carla’s breath caught in her throat and her hands recoiled from the steering wheel. The beeping stopped too.

Quiet whimpers came from the back seat as the predicted tears began to slide down her son’s cheeks. She unbuckled her seat belt and whirled around to face him. 

“It’s okay, Tobes. There’s nothing to worry about,” she lied. She took his little hand in hers and rubbed it between her palm and thumb. 

This made him wail harder.

She opened her mouth to soothe him with the promise that they’ll be home soon for his favourite meal of dim sims and spring rolls, when a black shadow crossed in front of the rear window.

She gasped and Toby’s wailing stopped.

“What mummy! What!”

The shadow had been large. Too large to be a person. She bit her lip hard to stop herself from crying out in fear.

She willed herself to stay calm.

“Mummy!”

“Toby, please be quiet,” she whispered, lifting a shaky index finger to her pursed lips.

The wind outside had slowed and the car no longer threatened to topple over. For some reason, this unnerved Carla even more.

Toby intuitively sensed her distress and obeyed her request to keep quiet.

The injured animal sound came again but it wasn’t on their left side anymore. It was on their right side. 

Carla’s eyes slid to the window opposite Toby. There was something out there. Her body felt heavy and immovable. The icicles were spreading like tiny spider webs along the window edges. She watched them building.

Two hands hit hard against the space she had been watching. Toby screamed. A ghostly face of a bearded man appeared, he was yelling for them to let him in. 

Carla swiftly pushed the lock button and scrambled into the back seat to shield Toby. He was sobbing loudly as the man continued to yell. 

He pounded harder against the window. His expression morphing from fear into helplessness. 

Then he disappeared. Too quickly. Did something take him?

Carla gently hushed Toby and cradled him to her chest. She closed her eyes and prayed for the storm to be over.

She vowed never to drive when the bureau had predicted a snowstorm ever again.

Toby’s sobs quietened, he’d resigned to sniffs and hiccoughs. 

The silence outside was eerie and Carla tried not to think of the tales of monsters from the book of myths and legends she’d been reading to Toby lately. He’d loved those stories and would excitedly shove the book in her hand every night before bed time. She hadn’t liked to admit it to herself but the stories had often kept her mind awake after her son had succumbed to sleep, buzzing with questions and silly fears that they might be true.

The sound of a police siren was next to pierce through the white fog. Toby straightened in her arms. “The police are here!”

His expression of despair was quickly replaced with excitement. 

Carla marvelled at how the presence of his heroes could so rapidly transform his experience of the hellish situation.

Then there were gunshots.

Lots of them.

One shattered the front window where she had been sitting only moments before.

Carla screamed and clung tight to her son.

The animal sound came again. This time it was a guttural roar that sounded like those mechanical dinosaurs she’d taken Toby to see last month at the local museum. 

Carla’s brain switched from fright to flight and she unclipped Toby from his seat and unlocked the door beside him. They couldn’t stay here.

Toby protested and tried to push her hands away.

“Toby. We will die if we stay,” she said, surprised by her own conviction.

His face and body sagged. She reached over and pushed open the door, it swung open and the cold was merciless. Ignoring the urge to shut the door and stay inside, she hopped out into the white fog and scooped Toby up into her arms.

Another gunshot rang out and this prompted her to run. 

The snow build-up on the ground slowed her speed significantly and she found she was panting within a few minutes. The air was so thick with fog that she couldn’t see any other cars. She didn’t even know which direction she was running in.

Toby suddenly grabbed her shoulder painfully and screamed, “Mummy! There!”

She stopped and whirled around to where he was pointing.

A black shape, larger than any animal she’d ever seen, was emerging from the white.

Her mouth dropped open. Toby began to cry again.

Her last thought before everything shifted from white to black was that she was right about the fairy tales. Monsters do exist.

January 10, 2020 08:24

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