Jonah opened his eyes and found himself driving in a rusted old station wagon in a foreign part of town. As he passed the luscious overgrown trees, and antique wooden houses, he searched for a purpose. Then, something caught his attention, a man shuffled alone towards the long infinite stretch of road. He looked to be in his forties, and the glimmer in his eyes had been sucked out of him, leaving an empty void behind.
After smelling oil burning, Jonah noticed an engulfed pickup truck hauling lumber several feet ahead.
He pulled over. "Are you alright!?"
“I just. I just killed my son..."
Jonah's face flushed, he brought out his phone and dialed 9-1-1 quickly.
"Everything's going to be ok. I'll make sure of it."
The man fell to his knees and started to whimper.
"My boy...He attacked me..."
Jonah drove further to the accident.
He noticed the corpse lying there, the boy's intestines had been flattened out onto the gravel. Jonah held his nose and turned away but, listened to the crackles of the fire deteriorating the vehicle and the grieving father sobbing hysterically.
As his stomach turned from seeing the grisly view of the body, he drove away but something called for his attention. The mangled corpse had began to moan faintly.
"Oh, no..." Jonah's heart sank.
Somehow it found the spirits to keep going on muscle memory alone, it detached himself from his other half. Jonah couldn't believe his eyes.
It was 8:00 AM when Jonah's phone buzzed, startling him awake from his brief nap at the stable grounds of the casino's race track. He didn't have the energy yet to sustain himself, so he grabbed a hot reviving brew from the lunchroom. Then he headed out to tend to the jockey's prized black thoroughbred mare, Arabian Nights. He took her out for a light jog, fed her a light breakfast and continued on to brush and shine her mane and forelock to pristine conditions.
The casino in Inglewood was a thriving business popularizing their most financially viable attraction, horseracing. Many in the city enjoyed betting and rooting for the popular horses that competed at the tracks. Some patrons even arrived internationally to wager on the casinos successful herd of horses. Jonah was one of the grooms, at 21-years-old, he had already years of experience under his belt. He had been a stable boy since he was a child growing up in the ranches of Pasadena, where his family owned horses and farm animals.
Today, he'd spend his days inspecting each of the race contenders to ensure they were suitable before their vet checkups.
After fulfilling a part-time shift, Jonah rested on a bench in the valet parking area of the casino, where he stared at his cell phone and smiled.
"You're out already, Jonah? Aren't you sticking around to see if your girl makes it to the finals?"
"Hey, Mal!" One of his coworkers, Mallory approached to sit besides him. "Nah, you know I could care less about that stuff. Besides, I've got plans tonight."
"Oh, look at you, full of piss and vinegar! You've got a date tonight or something?"
"As a matter of fact..." Jonah lifted his phone to show her a photo of a pretty redhead with piercing blue eyes.
"Oh." Mallory stammered "Gross. Is that why you've been smiling like that? Staring at your phone all day like a Creepazoid?"
"Yep." Jonah's cheeks blushed, and he chuckled. "That's why! And I'm a little nervous too." He watched Mal looking out to the line of cars. "What about you? Done for the day too?"
"I'm just waiting for my food." She looked down at her phone that dinged a message notification. "Ah shit! Jonah can you do me a favor and have the food-delivery guy wait a few more minutes. Ricky's calling me, something's up with the new horse."
"Don't worry, Mal. I got this. I have like twenty minutes before my brother picks me up."
"Yeah, I'll see what Ricky wants."
"Thank you so much!"
He headed down to meet Ricardo who was trying his best to calm down the disgruntled horse. He was a new one that came in from a barn a few weeks ago. For the most part, he was calm during his stay, but today the white stallion seemed dangerously agitated. His ears were pinned back as he neighed in frustration, kicking his hooves out and ramming the gates surrounding him.
“Aye! Calm down, Chardonnay! You almost crushed my fingers, you little prick." Ricardo waved his hands out. "Hey! Hey. You're alright boy, you're alright." As the horse showed signs of calming down, he caressed his long forehead and muzzle. "See, you have nothing to be afraid of. You big wuss."
Jonah approached. “Oh, shoot. You ok? I’ve never seen him act this way." He noticed the horse's eyes seemed hazy and his nose leaked mucus. "Has he eaten?"
“Yes he has, I just fed him this morning” Ricardo said caressing him. “What's wrong, boy. Huh?”
"Maybe he's getting sick..."
"Maybe he's horny. Is that it boy? Are the other mares causing you to get all riled up? You're trying to get your beak wet?"
Jonah shook his head at Ricky. He approached to check if the pale horse was gelded, but noticed his ribs were slightly exposed. The horse had looked underweight, in a matter of a few days!
He lunged to try and bite Jonah.
"Whoa! I need to find the Vet and George, Ricky. Something's off. Keep an eye on him for me."
"I'll be here."
George was the manager who oversaw the operation, he enjoyed wearing denim buttoned shirts, cowboy hats and big country belt buckles, despite growing up in Miami. Jonah paced up the stairs of the stadium in search for him.
After spotting him far on the field talking to some athletes, he ran over.
“Sir, do you have a minute to talk?"
"Just a minute, Javier". He turned over to Jonah. "What's wrong, son?"
"I need to talk to you about the origin of the stallion.”
“Not now, Jonah. That new stallion isn't racing anytime soon, so we can have the vet check him out another day."
“I just get a bad feeling, sir. The horse's health has been deteriorating way too quickly."
George sighed. “Like I said, we’ll get a vet to check him out later."
“Do you know where his vaccination records are?”
“That's not something you should be concerned of right now, Jonah. Didn't you ask me if you could leave early today? You've done enough. I'll follow up with Ricardo later. Go enjoy the rest of your night."
“Of course, George. Thank you.”
Jonah walked back to the casino, and spotted Mallory who was scanning her badge to clock-in from lunch.
“Thanks for saving me some fries."
Mallory grinned. She noticed Jonah looked a little upset. "Sorry, that thing took so long, Jonah. Everything cool?"
“That inconsiderate jackass."
“No. George. He just keeps showing everyday how little he cares about the animals. I get the Casino needs to profit but, there's a fine balance. They're beautiful, emotional creatures too, y'know? We need to give them love too..."
“Yeah, George is - he's something else. Sometimes I wish I could smack him, but that would be considered animal abuse. Don't stress over it. He might be in it for the money, but you still have a team like us!"
"Yeah, you're right, Mal. This team still rocks."
"It more than rocks. I'm Tom Booker the Mother-Effing-Horse-Whisperer."
"Is that so?" Jonah laughed then looked down at his unread messages.
"Oh hey. Let me know how the date goes tonight, ok?"
Jonah called his brother, Eric right away. "Shit! I'm so sorry."
"Bro, if you don't get your ass out in two minutes."
"I'm sorry! Just give me 5 more minutes. I gotta run to the bathroom really quickly. My bladders gonna burst. Just 5 minutes!" Jonah waved goodbye to Mallory and left.
"Ugh, dude. Last time, ok? Just-just bring me a root beer float from the deli and all is forgiven. I'm a generous God."
"You got it!"
Jonah walked over to the bathroom and spotted red-dyed water in the sink.
"What the hell?"
Someone moaned in the bathroom stalls. Trickles of blood lead a trail from the sink. "Haah... Uugh.. Aaah.."
“Everything ok in there?" Jonah knocked on the door, concerned it was something severe. The moaning continued, it sounded familiar.
"Ricky? Is that you, man? Want me to call the ambulance?"
Ricardo burst through the door, launching Jonah against the porcelain sink.
"Ricardo! W-What the hell! What are you doing?!"
Streams of blood came down from his brow, he looked at Ricardo and noticed his eyes were yellow, unfocused, and ferocious. He slurred his voice, pushing the saliva through his front teeth. He took a keen interest in Jonah.
Jonah dragged himself through the tiles leaving gushes of blood behind.
Ricardo tripped forward onto him.
He struggled to wrestle Ricardo away and pull himself up from the ground. His head seemed to spin uncontrollably.
Jonah kicked him, but he returned. "Help!".
Ricky dug his nails into his skin and pulled him.
"Somebody! Please!" he continued.
Jonah felt the warm drool dripping on to his neck. Ricardo took a large chunk of him like he was a putrid desert, he kept chewing him, undaunted by his gut-wrenching screaming.
"Jonah!" Mallory finally burst into the bathroom. She tugged Jonah's hand, but he had already grown too numb. The pain and heavy blood loss had been too unbearable to handle. Jonah closed his eyes and wept.
It's 8:00 AM when Jonah's phone buzzed and woke him from a nap at the stables of the casino. He sipped his freshly brewed coffee from the lunchroom and recounted the vivid memories he had earlier. Filled with panic sweats, he headed back to his horses.
"That was terrifying." There was an uncanny similarity from the strange dream, to the world around him. His body had felt jittery. But, he continued on with his duties, feeding his horses before he messaged his brother to pick him up early.
He walked over to the designated valet area to wait for him.
"You're out already, Jonah? Aren't you sticking around to see if your girl makes it to the finals?"
Jonah flinched. "Oh shit! You scared me, Mal."
"Wow. You're jumpy today. That excited to get out of here, huh?"
"Something like that." Jonah sighed. "Hey...You ever get Deja Vu?"
"Oh yeah all the time. 365 days a year to be exact."
"Real funny. I mean, real Deja Vu. I just... I just feel like I dreamt last night, today."
Mallory raised an eyebrow at him. "Ha. Yeah, first off, I want whatever drugs you're taking. Secondly, you really need a break from this place, Jonah. Nobody here cares about these horses the way you do. It's apparent. But, you also need to make room for other things, like having a life."
"On that note, a couple of friends and I are going to the Fair tonight if you want to-" Mallory's phone interrupted. "Dammit!" She looked at the messages from Ricardo and back at Jonah. "Jonah, can you please-"
"Was that Ricky?"
"Yeah, how'd you know? But I got it. I just wanted you to grab my food and just hand it to Miguel, the valet guy, yeah? Thanks!" She rushed back inside.
It took a minute for Jonah to recall where she had gone, to tend to the sickly white horse from his dreams. He quickly got up to fetch her. He needed to know if that crucial part of the memory would also come true.
Upon rushing to the stables, Jonah shouted at both of them trying to calm the horse. "Stand back, guys! I think the horse might have rabies!"
The white stallion began to kick at the stall doors.
"How do you know?", said Ricardo. "Why didn't you say anything earlier?"
"We need to get a vet right away, Ricky. I have a bad feeling about him."
"Wow, Jonah. Is this about that Deja Vu thing you mentioned?" said Mal.
Just as they had been turned around, and distracted, the horses took a big bite out of Mallory's shoulder.
"Ah, crap!" she yelled. "Ow... This hurts..."
"Mal! Are you ok?!"
"I don't know. How bad is it?"
Jonah rushed her over to the bathroom. He held a rag and applied pressure on her opened wound. Ricardo shuffled for the first-aid kit in his office.
Mallory mustered. "Please tell me it's not that bad..."
Jonah stared at Mallory's face the whole time, she was quickly overheating and turning red. Her eyes had already grown a tint of yellow, mucus-like moistness to them. He had known she would suffer the same fate as Ricardo did in his dream.
"Mal, it-." his voice trembled. "We...We need to clean it up."
Jonah rinsed a rag with warm water and pressed it down on her wound. She continued sweating more profusely than before.
"Jonah, why are you looking at me like that?"
"You're staring." Mallory stumbled down onto the floor.
"Mal!" Jonah tried to lift her up. He let her balance against the sink as he peeked outside. "Ricardo! Where the hell are you!?"
Ricardo rushed in with gauze wraps and medicine.
"Ahhhh!" Jonah felt a bite on his back, ripped apart from Mallory's canine teeth. He fell forward while Ricardo tried to helplessly pull him out of the bathroom.
The hemorrhaging seemed to happen instantly, when Jonah was afflicted by severe muscle spasms. He knew what was to come, so he looked up at Ricardo who was panicking and shouting and simply stopped struggling.
It's 8:00 AM when Jonah's phone buzzed and woke him from a nap at the stables of the casino. He skipped his coffee and ran immediately in search of the vet, Amber.
“This is going to sound weird, but I’m looking for a syringe with the Tryptophan and a bottle of Trimethoprim sulfa.”
“Um. Why exactly do you need these, Jonah?” Amber, said confused.
“I’ll explain later.”
Jonah scavenged through her desk despite her disapproval. "Hey stop that!"
After a moment, he found it. He headed over to the white horse already resisting. Ricardo kept his distance as he texted Mallory on the phone.
“Ricky! Stay back from him!"
Ricardo jumped up. "You scared me, dude!"
Jonah managed to prod the horse with the syringe after distracting it, and fed it food with the oral medication antibiotics. Later on he placed the horse in isolation.
The day went on and Jonah skipped his date. Instead he fell asleep on his bed, turning on the sports broadcasting network for the highlights. Arabian Nights had come in first place!
He smiled and rested his head on his pillow.
That moment of tranquility cut short, when his phone vibrated.
An Emergency Broadcast alert.
"POSSIBLE VIRAL AIR PATHOGEN EXPOSURE, Seek immediate shelter and do not leave your homes. This is not a drill."
Jonah quickly turned on the TV to the same frightening two-tone signal message.
Later, that night Jonah spent it fussing and worrying with his brother, locked inside their home. The cell towers had been congested, and he was unable to get a hold of anyone or use the internet. He fell asleep terrified.
It's 8:00 AM when Jonah's phone buzzed and woke him from a nap at the stables of the casino. Mallory and Jonah marched over to George and pleaded for the address of the white horse. After several attempts on separate days, he finally revealed it.
The stallion was found in an abandoned farm in Redwood City, rescued from their neighbors, a man who worked at a lumberyard who called the casino. The animal was neglected and starving when they found him.
Jonah convinced Mallory to board a plane with him, headed to an airport closest to Redwood City. Then, they heard a loud turbulent sound of gunfire in the terminal.
The airport quickly got shut down.
Later on the news, it's revealed that police officers were responsible for shooting some hostile passengers assumed to be high on powerful psychoactive synthetic bath salts.
It's 8:00 AM when Jonah's phone buzzed and woke him from a nap at the stables of the casino. He immediately hijacked a customer's vehicle in the valet area, and rushed over the local airport. He had only a short duration before the plane took off, before the airport went under emergency shut down.
Jonah spent his valuable time meticulously speeding through traffic, leaving his vehicle running at the departure pick up zone while he rushed through restricted security doors. He had already swiped an airport badge from someone and bypassed TSA.
He presented his ticket at the kiosk. An emergency lockdown would occur 20 minutes after his plane flew airborne.
When Jonah landed, he hijacked a station wagon from an old man who helped his wife load her baggage.
Jonah stopped to listen to a ragged-looking man who preached outside of the exit doors of the airport, holding a sign for the incoming travelers waiting for their airport shuttles.
"Repent, sinners! This sinful world has gone too long without basking in the words of the Almighty. II Chronicles 6:28 says, If there be dearth in the land, if there be pestilence, if there be blasting, or mildew, locusts, or caterpillars; if their enemies besiege them in the cities of their land; whatsoever sore or whatsoever sickness there be."
Jonah thought there might be something in there to decipher, before heading on that long country road.
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WOW! What a hook you had from the very beginning! Way to draw the reader in! Well done, Eric, well done!
Thank you Francis glad you thought so and I'm glad it grabbed your attention early on, because it's was a bumpy wild ride!! 😋
Those are usually the best rides of all! The ones where you skid to a stop and ask yourself, "what was THAT?!" are always the best!
Couldnt agree more!!!
That was a really interesting story. It grabs your attention right away. I like how (I think anyway) the beginning and end tie together. The setting with the horses is really interesting too. It would be great if there were room for a bit more in some of these sections, but I know that's hard with the word count. It seems worth expanding if you are interested. It's a cool and creepy story that I enjoyed reading.
Thanks anna i had so many ideas to expand and flesh out the relationship between Jonah and Mallory, there are small hints that shes into him and create something there. And I'd say you have a great eye ! 😁
This fascinating story grabbed my attention from beginning to end. I think it was a little like “Ground-hog day”, where every time you awoke, a similar vein ran through the story. Watch your grammar and sentence structure. It’s ok to write informally, though if you want to publish a novel in the future, your work will need editing. It’s a good story worth sharing. Keep reading and writing. The more you do of both, the easier it will become to use correct grammar and sentence structure. I don’t want to pick a good story to pieces; however, wh...
Thanks Marie this was really great advice I need to totally focus on grammar structure too sometimes it just gets neglected when I proof read. And reading and writing totally does help ease into better writing skills thanks for taking the time to give me the example below, totally keeping this in the long term memory slot. Its much appreciated 😁
You are most welcome. It was an interesting story. It would make a great novel at some stage. Cheers - Marie
I loved the theme of this story keep up the good work
THIS WAS AMAZING! I am in love with the plot and the way it has been executed is even more awesome. It reminds me of the book 'Before I fall' by Lauren Oliver. There are a few remarkable phrases used and the flow is unbreaking and absorbing. It was a good start and had me intrigued all way through. It takes staggering twists and rides through the most unexpected things. A little confusion I had: "Ah shit! Jonah can you do me a favor and have the food-delivery guy wait a few more minutes. Ricky's calling me, something's up with the new hor...
Thank you, Keya! I'm so glad you liked the twists in this one. I looked up that book you mentioned and it seems super interesting, I can see the similarities too. As for the phrase Jonah mentions he will take care of Ricky asking for help so she can stay and wait for her food, so he later meets her coming back from lunch, I suppose I can make it little more clearer. You made my day! Thanks for your comments and you're boosting my confidence to submit this, I think I'm gonna give it a try and hope it can get some good exposure!
Oh right, thanks for the clarification. And ofcourse! You should definitely submit. It deserves to be recognised 😊😊 Good luck
I am sorry this didn't make the shortlist, Eric, but I still think it is a masterpiece. I really hope you are not disheartened. Your stories are always great so don't let this discourage your writing. Good luck!
It's okay Keya I'm happy with all the positive feedback I received including yours! Thanks for the support, I'll keep trying to better my writing !! 😇