If They Run You Over, Don't Scream

Submitted into Contest #158 in response to: Write about a character with questionable morals.... view prompt

31 comments

Horror Suspense Contemporary

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Today is my birthday, but I'm wearing a Halloween costume. It’s my first time as the bait.


“Remember what we talked about, Kayla, dear,” Mum says, hugging me tight. “If they run you over, don’t scream.”


Next to her, Dad nods. “Don’t make a sound. It’ll ruin the surprise, and more of ‘em will come. They’ll take you away. Do you want that to happen?”


I sniff and shake my head, releasing a captive breath that plumes through the night air. Goosebumps pepper my bare arms. I can’t tell if they’re from cold or fear. 


We let silence wash over us as the townsfolk do their work. Illuminated by pools of moonlight, they tug a mangled car onto the road and set it askew. Metal scrapes sharply against asphalt, and voices hiss warnings in response, demanding quiet. This is the riskiest part.


I look past them to stare down the empty road, and a deep weight unsettles my stomach. The wind tickles rows of looming cornfields on either side, as if they’re also shivering, as if their lives are also on the line. I’d think it was beautiful if I wasn’t the bait.


Dad follows my gaze, frowning. He puts his arm around my shoulders. “It’ll be alright, love. I remember my first time, too. I was terrified. Don’t worry – Jackson will be with you all the way. And once they stop, we’ll take it from there.”


The townsfolk, finished with the first car, are now dragging the second one. The front of it is smashed in. They position them facing each other, then stand back to assess the scene. I spy Jackson’s broad frame kneeling, pointing at one of the cars’ tires. There’s more whispering, then he and several others remove the tire and place it overturned a short distance away.


He spots us standing there with the cornfields to our back, and limps over.


“You ready to rumble?” he grins.


“I think so,” I mumble.


He tousles my hair. “Well, you look the part, kiddo. There ain’t nothin’ to be worried about. Come on, let’s get you all bloodied up.”


I take one last look at my parents, holding each other and waving at me. Then I fall into step with Jackson as he leads me towards the battered cars. It never fails to surprise me how fast he moves, despite his bad leg. As we walk, I peek at it from the corner of my eye. It’s normal above the knee, but his shin is twisted something awful, and his foot is sideways. It looks painful.


“It don’t hurt, if that’s what you’re thinkin’,” he remarks, reading my mind. “Sure, it ain’t too convenient. But you know what’s funny? I don’t think they meant anything by it. Was an accident, pure dumb luck. Bad driving.” He chuckles, breath misting. “Might even be they’re guilty about it. Imagine that!”


Usually, an older sibling does the bloodying. But I’ve got no brothers or sisters, so Jackson will do it, since he’s my oldest cousin. Tradition says he must be bait tonight alongside me, but he shows no signs of fear. Instead, he’s a restless bundle of energy, the excitement rising from his skin like steam from a kettle.


Beside one car is a metal bucket. “Kneel down. It’ll be easier,” he says, suddenly serious.


I comply quietly, the road scraping roughly against my knees. The jeans I’m wearing – which are not really mine, because they’ve been used and reused since before I was born – are ripped and torn. So is my shirt, white with no writing or logos. Mum said it’s to make sure that I’m seen.


Jackson reaches into the bucket, and his hand emerges dripping. He works it gently into my hair. Cold drops splatter on my neck, and I jump, muffling a shriek.


“It’s alright,” he murmurs. “Hold your breath and close your eyes.”


He smears blood across the side of my face, making my breath hitch in my throat. Some of it trickles down my neck and onto my arms. When he reaches my shirt, he picks up the bucket and pours it all over, leaving me shivering and uncomfortable, like dozens of freezing insects are crawling across my skin. I’m sure there’s none in my mouth, but I can taste it anyway, bitter and metallic. 


When he’s satisfied, he beckons me up and hands me the slick-handled bucket. Then he lowers himself down and motions towards his face. 


“Your turn.”


I follow his directions, smearing him with blood until he looks like he’s been in a horrible accident. The night disappears; all I can feel is the wetness of my hand and Jackson’s warm, slick skin. Suddenly, I realize we’re alone amongst gutted cars and the moonlight. The townsfolk, and my parents, have left us. But I know they’re watching.


“It’s almost time,” Jackson says, peering up at the sky. “Follow me.”


He leads me further up the road, just past where the cars are laid out, and points to a spot on the asphalt.


“Lie down here.”


My un-bloodied cheek touches the road, and I wince at the gritty particles digging into my skin. Fumes of burnt tires and old smoke make my head swim. Jackson grasps my limbs one-by-one, positioning them so I’m splayed out like a bug on a windscreen. He leaves my head where it is, my eyes fixed down the road. I feel his hot breath in my ear before he disappears somewhere behind me.


“Don’t move an inch.”


The worst part of being the bait, everyone agrees, is the waiting. I realize now why they say it’s impossible to close your eyes. Once, Jackson told me he lay there as bait all night, and in the morning, his eyeballs were all dried out from hardly blinking. But no one thinks tonight will be like that. The townsfolk say my birthday is an especially bountiful day. 


All around me, the cornfields tremble with anticipation. They must be close. Something howls in the distance, but my thundering heart drowns it out. Mum and Dad said this part was the most exciting, the part you lived for. The best part of being the bait.


In the distance floats a pinprick of unnatural light. It grows bigger as it approaches, then splits in two. A low hum brushes the edge of my hearing. 


It’s them.


A small voice in my mind urges me to get up and run away. To disappear into the safety of the cornfields and my parents’ arms. Then another one retorts in Jackson’s deep tones, chiding me for the thought. Without thinking, I let a whimper escape, and the wind surges past, whipping my hair around as if in a reprimand. And all the while, the lights get closer.


I can make them out as headlights now, fluorescent white. Soon, they’re burned into my vision, and it makes no difference if my eyes are open or closed. The full moon is gone, lost somewhere high above. Its absence leaves darkness leaking through, blotting out the sky. 


They’re almost here. The hum has grown into the distinctive growl of a car engine. Gulps of cold air, instead of calming me, chill me to the bone. I see my breath misting and frantically clamp my mouth shut. 


Even though it’s my first time as the bait, I’ve thought of this moment often, played it out in my mind. The road is so long, it’ll take them a while to see me. But when they do, the driver will slow the car down to a crawl. They’ll get so close I can see their faces. Maybe they’ll even stop and get out. 


This is what I tell myself as the headlights approach. I ignore my heart, pounding out of my chest, when the car doesn’t slow. I ignore the small voice, pleading shrilly to run while I still can. It is so close I can smell acrid fumes and burning engine oil. 


It still hasn’t slowed. 


It’s going to run me over. 


A moment of clarity descends, and I remember when Jackson told me what happened to his leg. Keep it relaxed, he’d said, or it’ll be more painful if they run it over. As my limbs loosen and the light fills my vision, my parents’ advice echoes through my mind, their voices repeating over and over again.


If they run you over, don’t scream.


If they run you over, don’t scream.


If they run you over - 


I scream. 


I scream, a bloodcurdling wail, but it cuts short abruptly.


I’m not in pain. 


Instead, I’m blind. The car is still, headlights shining directly into my face, burning rubber assaulting my nose. If I reached out, I could touch the front wheel. The engine reverberates in my ears, guttural, like a beast slavering for my flesh.


I hear muffled voices, then the sound of a window rolling down. 


“Christ, is that a child?” a female voice says, hushed.


“Oh God, I think it is. Did I hit her? Oh heavens,” a man replies.


“Don’t be silly, she was already lying there,” the woman retorts. She raises her voice. “Are you okay? What happened?” 


Just like they taught me, I remain still as a stone, forcing shallow breaths in and out of my nose. I shut my eyes firmly, the inside of my eyelids painted bright orange from the light shining through. Terror numbs my skin even colder than when I was bloodied. Have I ruined the surprise? Are more of them coming?


“You stay in the car, Deb. I’ll go check on her,” the man says.


The car door opens, and several sounds erupt at once. A chime from inside the car: ding ding ding ding. The slap of boots on asphalt. And, further away, rustling from the cornfields. 


A faint voice floats towards me. “Mummy, there’s something in the trees.”


The woman shushes her. “Quiet, honey. Back to sleep.”


Footsteps crunch closer and closer, until suddenly my eyelids go from orange to black. The man must be standing right in front of me. He grunts, and I catch a whiff of sweat and stale cologne. A rough hand brushes my arm. It takes all of my willpower to remain splayed out, at his mercy, waiting for him to take me away. This close, he must see me trembling. 


But I never find out if he does.


On either side of the road, the cornfields shudder and sigh. Footsteps erupt from every direction. The man yells in surprise, yammering an incoherent question; his hand withdraws, his smell recedes. There is no reply, but I hear the grunting of several men, and, briefly, a soft, wet sound. The world flares orange again. Someone screams. 


For a heart-stopping moment I worry it was me, until she screams again. It’s the woman from the car. The car door slams shut - cutting off the chime, muffling her voice. My vision flickers as several pairs of legs run past. 


Someone pulls the door open; screams and wails pierce the night. I want to put my fingers in my ears, block them out, but my limbs are frozen in place. The dreadful sounds echo until they’re unbearable, before, one-by-one, they cease abruptly and all noise fades. My ears strain against the silence. My chest is paralyzed, too afraid to breathe.


Then, it starts. Wet, smacking sounds, like bootsteps on mud. Twigs snapping. More grunting, mixed with rumbling moans. The tearing of cloth, and metal bending.


A strong pair of hands clasps me under the armpits, lifts me to my feet. 


“You can open your eyes,” Jackson whispers. 


I do, but they fail to adjust. Light burns through, making my head hurt. Blinking, I lean on him for support, and he puts his arm around my shoulder. My throat is dry, and I struggle to get the words out. 


“What are they doing?”


“You’ll see, Kayla.” His grip tightens. “But don’t scream.”

August 12, 2022 21:24

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

31 comments

Seán Mc Nicholl
09:58 Aug 19, 2022

Oh Shuv, my man, well done!! Now that’s a horror story! So much suspense and so much left up in the air! The sounds at the end were particularly eeriesome - my mind went into overdrive there! Had me hooked from start to finish. Brilliant!! Really really loved this! Well done!

Reply

20:58 Aug 19, 2022

Thank you my friend! Appreciate the support as always 😁

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
05:44 Aug 17, 2022

At the end of the story, I wasn't sure if they were desperate villagers, or zombies! Great tension. It was a brilliant decision to write this through the sensory observations of a child who doesn't know what was happening either, and it really brought it to life.

Reply

08:20 Aug 17, 2022

Thank you so much for reading and commenting Scott. I'm glad the POV worked. :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
L.M. Lydon
23:33 Aug 16, 2022

Super creepy. As a reader, I feel bad for Kayla, who it seems is being victimized from multiple levels. I don't think the engine is the only beast slavering for flesh...

Reply

08:25 Aug 17, 2022

Thanks, I'm glad that shone through - it was probably the only way to make one of the "trap-setters" sympathetic...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Aeris Walker
21:07 Aug 16, 2022

Wow. This is VERY good. I don’t read much horror, but you absolutely created a terrifying scenario with your setting, the mystery, and the character’s nervous voice. I like how you kept it a bit open ended, and let the reader fill in the blanks with what horrendous thing just happened. This was one of my favorite sentences: “The wind tickles rows of looming cornfields on either side, as if they’re also shivering, as if their lives are also on the line.” Great title, and those first lines were so perfectly executed. Great job :)

Reply

08:26 Aug 17, 2022

Aeris! Thanks for the read and feedback, really appreciate it :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mary Sheehan
11:54 Aug 16, 2022

Yikes, this one really gave me the heebie jeebies. I think I need to turn it over in my mind over a few days to fully grasp everything that happened. You kept me gripped the whole time. I wonder what the significance of not screaming is though? Because if she didn't scream, would the car have stopped, and would the people in the car be able to drive away to safety?

Reply

17:50 Aug 16, 2022

Yeah, that's a good point. The trap almost worked in reverse in this instance (obviously the idea is that usually, screaming would alert the driver and they'd realise it was a trap. Hence don't scream). But the alternative was writing a child getting run over (because the driver didn't know Kayla was there until she screamed), and that's probably too dark for me. 😂 Thanks for reading Mary :)

Reply

Mary Sheehan
21:09 Aug 16, 2022

I see the logic in that! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Kelsey H
10:45 Aug 15, 2022

I am actually a huge wuss so always slightly wary of this tag in case it gets descriptively gory (and you did have a warning for it!), but this was just so well done being truly horrifying yet without being graphic. It was a great idea to use the pov of this innocent child who is being used as 'bait' and doesn't actually know fully what her purpose is, so through her we are led on this mission of discovery with a strong creep factor running through it from the beginning. The first sentence is a perfect hook and from there the sense of ten...

Reply

08:41 Aug 16, 2022

Kelsey, I always love hearing your thoughts, and you made my day with this comment! I'm so glad you mention the child - it felt like a natural way to ramp up the horror of what happens next. Gore in horror has never scared me, to be honest... it's easier to be vague and let the reader scare themselves lol

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Tommy Goround
11:22 Aug 14, 2022

Yummy hook. :Clap'n.

Reply

09:13 Aug 15, 2022

Thanks dude!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Amanda Lieser
01:35 Aug 14, 2022

Oh my goodness! This was such a scary and intriguing story. I was reading it while holding a breath I didn’t realize I had until I let it go. I was so scared for Kayla and then I was scared for the people in the car! I thought I knew what was going to happen but I really totally didn’t which made it all the more delightful to read. This was a great response to the prompt! Nice job!

Reply

06:54 Aug 14, 2022

Thanks Amanda! So glad you enjoyed it and I hope the twists felt earned! I've got Rabbit Hole on my TBR for this week. :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Riel Rosehill
21:36 Aug 13, 2022

Woah. I was hooked on this from the moment I read the title. A chilling story. First I was just trying to figure out quickly what was happening - why are they cheerfully risking a child getting run over? Insanity! And there's this other person who already had done this and it didn't go well for his leg - and he still goes along with it? Cult vibes all the way. Creepy cult vibes! I was hoping they wouldn't get run over but I thought they were up to no good. I was thinking robbery and murder. For the sake of stealing, maybe they were just poor...

Reply

06:52 Aug 14, 2022

Aw thanks Riel, this comment is so nice! I've always thought the scariest horror is inside the reader's head, so it's fun to drop in some details and let them fill in the rest LOL. I'm not sure myself what these townsfolk really are... I did drop "full moon" in there purposefully for the werewolf angle (nice catch!) but, as you say, it's probably scarier if they're just regular people hahah

Reply

H.R. Glick
02:20 Aug 17, 2022

I absolutely love how you said you give a lot of the details, but the scariest thing is in the readers mind. Absolutely picked up on the full moon and had half a second thought of werewolves, but a lot of the blood covering and wearing the same clothes, etc. were giving me “Walking Dead” zombie vibes. Especially with the broken down cars on the road. Honestly the way you paint the picture is so vivid, but there are so many possibilities with the story still!

Reply

02:50 Aug 17, 2022

Thanks for the read, really appreciate it! I haven’t seen Walking Dead and didn’t even think of zombies for this - pretty sure you and Riel have more vivid imaginations than I do 🤣

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Zack Powell
20:56 Aug 13, 2022

I'm not usually squeamish, but wow. I have never reacted to a story so physically and so viscerally before. I'm not kidding when I tell you I screamed, I cringed, and I had to read from the middle on with my eyes squinted, because the suspense was insane. I NEED to know what the inspiration for this one was. I legitimately don't think I've read a more unsettling story on here. Side note: If Michał hadn't already mentioned it, I would've also likened this to Shirley Jackson. The concept of someone being designated as "bait," as the "it" pers...

Reply

06:47 Aug 14, 2022

Hahahah, love those reactions - there's nothing more validating than making your readers squirm. ;) Oooh so glad you asked about the inspiration. Well, I read this story (or copypasta?) on reddit about (as I recall) an ex-military guy driving on backroads in the middle of nowhere, and coming across the scene of a car crash. But it seems sketchy to him, so he drives on through, dodging the bodies. Then, as he's driving off, he looks in his rearview mirror and sees the "bodies" get up, and a crowd of people come out of the fields on either si...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Aesha Amin
07:27 Aug 13, 2022

I'll never get over the opening lines. They tell us so much about the plot without giving away the best details. Also, the fact that a father tells her daughter to focus on the work than on the possibility of getting hurt adds significantly to the horror aspect of the story. I also adore the way you wrote "Usually, an older sibling does the bloodying." You normalized it, making the situation Kayla found herself in all the more terrifying. The repeated mention and use of the cornfields was so good, especially how the cornfields were sort ...

Reply

06:41 Aug 14, 2022

Aw you're too kind, thanks beta reader! Your feedback made this story better! I was actually going for the cornfields being more of a metaphor for Kayla (with the shivering, trembling and shuddering), but it wasn't as developed as it could have been haha

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Suma Jayachandar
03:32 Aug 13, 2022

Great horror story, Shuvayon! The first two paragraphs are great hooks, with capital H. You kept the suspense up throughout and made it land in true horror. Beautiful lines and phrases sprinkled throughout. My faves, -Illuminated by pools of moonlight -like dozens of freezing insects are crawling across my skin. - The engine reverberates in my ears, guttural, like a beast slavering for my flesh -All around me, the cornfields tremble with anticipation And this episode from BCS about two brothers on roller skates flashed across my mind. I t...

Reply

06:38 Aug 14, 2022

Thank you Suma, I was proud of those lines you highlighted! Appreciate your read and comment as always. :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michał Przywara
01:49 Aug 13, 2022

The title caught my eye, and damn, that opening is fierce! "It’s my first time as the bait." Great hook. The story delivers the horror too, in several dimensions. It sounds like Kayla's a kid, but for some reason she's being out in a dangerous situation with a non-zero chance of being run over -- and everyone is fine with this. Next, we have... well, whatever it is that happened. We don't see it first hand, but I'm naturally picturing a village of cannibals fishing for highway traffic. Then, there's the excited, almost friendly way everyo...

Reply

02:47 Aug 13, 2022

Love how you highlighted the contrast between the jovial townsfolk and a grim situation. That's exactly the reaction I was going for. I enjoyed writing the dissonance of Kayla's loving family being oddly comfortable with her role as bait. Thank you for reading Michał!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
H L Mc Quaid
09:24 Aug 22, 2022

Engrossing, mysterious, and heart-thumping! Well done, I enjoyed this a lot, tho glad I was reading it the morning (woulda given me the heebeejeebies at night!).

Reply

Show 0 replies
Graham Kinross
00:33 Aug 18, 2022

That first line of dialogue is horrifying. Not a thing a parent should ever be saying to their child. This is horrific. Well done.

Reply

Show 0 replies