A boy hops into a girls car after a party. Whats the worst that could happen?
|Eric had been drinking since basketball practice ended six hours ago, and was thoroughly enjoying this respite from running nonstop suicides up and down the length of the court. His calves groaned amiably as he stretched, his chest swelling with a languid yawn. He sank deeper into the couch, drinking in the warm buzz of idle chatter floating about the sitting room. The floor beneath his sneakers thrummed and rattled, vibrating in time to the thumping of the unseen loudspeakers in the basement. The air was thick with the scent of weed, flavored vape smoke and beer sweat. Eric sighed, content; nights like these made it easy to forget he had his first regional conference coming up. He might have floated off into a beer-soaked nap if a tiny pellet of rolled up aluminum from a bubblegum wrapper hadn’t bounced off his brow, jolting him upright.
He tore himself from the ratty couch with a low groan and stood blinking in the dull yellow light of the Red Eye Lounge’s sitting room. A pair of girls eyed him with amusement as he ran a hand down his face. “Thought you were asleep for a minute there, Eric”, said Akosua, the mocha-skinned, frizzy haired one on the left in a loose-fitting t-shirt and leopard patterned yoga-pants. Eric groaned affectionately and grabbed a beer from a nearby box. “Don’t tell me you guys were standing guard”, he asked with a wry grin. “Wouldn’t be your big sister if I didn’t look out for your sorry ass”, she replied, with a smirk mirroring his. “You guys are adorable!”, squeaked the girl next to Akosua, a mousy little Latina in large green plastic framed glasses and a pair of jean overalls threaded with tiny little Christmas light bulbs. “You guys should pose for a picture!”, she squealed, beaming from ear-to-ear. Akosua rolled her eyes, but she grabbed Eric anyway and grinned for the camera. Eric held his beer up with a dopey, lopsided smile as the camera embedded in Christmas Latinas smartphone camera flashed thrice in quick succession. Akosua was at her elbow immediately, eager to pick a favorite. Eric wandered over, leaning over their shoulders for a look. Christmas Latina blushed lightly as he set his hand on her shoulder in an unconscious attempt to steady himself. Akosua quickly made introductions. “Eric, this is Esme, she’s from my Criminal Justice class”, she said, fighting back a smile as Esme reddened. “Esme, this is my dumbass brother. He shoots hoops for tuition money”. “Not my fault you got all the brain in the family”, laughed Eric, enveloping Esme’s hand in his. “I-Its very nice to meet you”, breathed Esme, her eyes wandering down the length of his body and up again. A broad, foolish smile plastered itself on Erics face. “That was fast”, thought Akosua, laughing to herself; that was, until she followed Erics gaze over Esme’s head and towards a nearby window.
The girl at the window was a willowy blonde, an alabaster skinned beauty in a flowing green sundress. Some squat, pug-faced guy who probably played football was talking at her a mile a minute, but Akosua could immediately tell the blonde only had eyes for her brother. Sundress girl flashed Eric a small, conspiratorial smirk as she nodded idly along with whatever the guy boring her was saying.
Akosua pursed her lips lightly, annoyed; she hadn’t dragged Esme away from her Criminology textbooks to have her upstaged by some sundress floozy. She grabbed Eric’s arm, intending to steer him away from the little temptress, but his feet seemed to have grown roots. Esme, noticing Akosua’s annoyance, followed the siblings gaze over to the window, her lovestruck smile faltering. “Fr-friend of yours?”, she asked Eric, crestfallen. “I dunno”, said Eric, with a dopey little grin Akosua wished she could slap off his face. “Lets go see if she wants to be”, he said, starting towards her. “No thanks”, Akosua snapped, dragging Esme away before any tears could fall. “Uh?”, he said, watching Akosua disappear into the crowd, Esme in tow. “What’d I do?”, he wondered, running a hand over his neck absent-mindedly. He was jolted immediately out of his funk by the electric touch of two fingers tracing a line down his neck, and he jumped, startled.
“Its okay”, she said, her laughter light like a moonlit stream. She was staring at him with an intensity that sent a shiver down his back and gooseflesh over his arms. He gulped, momentarily robbed of speech as she nonchalantly licked his sweat from her fingertips and closed her eyes, lost in perverse rapture. And then her eyes flashed open and for a moment he could have sworn they were golden, twin disks of blazing amber. He would have remarked on it, were it not a trick of the light; looking at them now, one was clearly a mottled blueish-green, the other a silver in which flecks of hazel danced like autmn leaves in a stormy sky. “Hi”, she said, her leg brushing enticingly against his as she drew closer. “Uh-Eric”, he said, and immediately wished he hadn’t spoken for a moment longer. Fortunately she seemed to find his momentary speech impediment charming, because she simply giggled and raised her limp, delicate hand to his face. “Charmed”, she said, as he kissed her proffered hand. “What’s your name?”, he asked, his heart in his mouth. He still couldn’t get the image of her tiny pink tongue lapping up the glimmering bead of sweat from her porcelain white fingertip out of his mind. She took his hand lightly in hers, and he thanked God the palms of his hand were somewhat dry. “Annemie”, she said, revealing matching rows of flawless teeth as her fingers danced over his palms, weathered from years of holding basketballs in a vice-like grip. “Wanna dance?”, she asked, nodding towards the doorway leading into the basement.
“Sure”, he said, his head spinning.
Two hours later, her lips were pressed firmly against his, her tongue hungrily explored his. Her sundress was damp with sweat and clung to her body like a second skin. In the flickering light her eyes were feral, wide and unblinking. Her hand cupped his aching bulge with an urgency that would have been disconcerting if he wasn’t so goddamn turned on he could hardly think straight. His hand ran down her smooth, taut legs and was immediately seized by hers; for a moment he panicked, afraid she would break away from him for going too far. And then she guided his hand upward, into the heat of her crotch. He gasped, a breathless apology dying in his throat; she was completely bare, save for a neat patch of trimmed hair on her mound. The only thing she was wearing under her sundress was a lacy bra he could feel on his chest when she pressed up against him, moaning into his ear. His head felt hot, as if it were fulled with pulsing, white noise. He could live in this moment with her forever.
And then the lights came on, piercingly bright after hours in the dark. Eric blinked in the light, dazed. Annemie clung to his chest, panting lightly. He caught himself running a finger through her flowing blonde mane and dropped his hand to her waist instead; his hands felt clunky in her hair, like clumps of lead ensnared in golden silk. He kissed her brow, feeling a dozen eyes rake over them as they stood, still entwined long after the music stopped. He couldn’t imagine how jealous the guys would be when he told them all about this beautiful, sexy woman. He’d have to take a picture to remember her by, in case he never saw her again after tonight; she wasn’t a face from around campus, and didn’t appear to have come with anyone. He drew his phone from his pocket and selected the camera app, a smile creeping onto his face; he could already hear the guys whilstling, impressed. Annemie seemed to sense the presence of the camera hovering overhead and grabbed his arm just below his bicep, driving it down with surprising force. Pain flared in his arm as her fingernails dug into his taut flesh, and he gasped, startled. And then the pressure was gone, and the was only Annemie, wide eyed and anxious. “Don’t”, she said, her voice unbearably sweet. “My hairs a mess, and I’m all wet from dancing”. “Oh”, was as much as he could manage, as he put his phone away. Why she would be so averse to a selfie was a mystery, but as quirks went, this was far from a deal breaker. Quite the opposite, actually; in a way it made him want her even more.
“You uh...wanna go?”, he asked, nodding towards the staircase leading upstairs. She obliged immediately, taking his hand and leading him upstairs, a gesture he found cute and unbearably sexy at the same time. Hen trailed behind her, hoping to catch glimpses of her perfectly sculpted ass as her dress fluttered around her legs. He wasn’t dissapointed. He still couldn’t believe she’d come to a college house party completely commando. “God-damn”, he whispered to himself, and laughed when she turned to favor him with that conspiratorial little smile of hers. She knew.
Akosua was waiting for them when they arrived on the ground floor. She stared daggers at Eric as he passed by, hoping the weight of her disapproval registered in his lust-addled brain. Instead she was briefly met with a blank stare as he was whisked away to the porch. Enough was enough; it was bad enough he’d snubbed sweet little Esme for Little Miss Slutty Sundress, now he was pretending he couldn’t even see her? “I really just might slap some sense into him tonight”, she thought as she excused herself from her friends. She followed them out onto the porch, where she caught Slutty Sundress practically making out with the side of Erics head. His eyes lit up as she approached, but she doubted it was because he was excited to see his sister again. The girl broke away from his ear and regarded her with a casual indifference she didn’t care for in the slightest.
“Hey...”, Akosua said, willing a smile onto her face. “Hi”, said Eric, his words thick and slurred. Slutty Sundress smiled and offered a hand to Akosua. “Annemie”, she said, her eyes glimmering with hidden mirth. “Its so nice to meet you”, said Akosua, leaning in for a stiff handshake. The palm of Annemie’s hand was warm, like a brow simmering with fever. Something about this girl just rubbed her all kinds of wrong, and it wasn’t just that Esme was curled up in her dorm room crying because of her. There was a sense of...wrongness that seemed to come of her in almost imperceptible waves, like a portrait taken at an ever so crooked angle. Annemie’s brow furrowed, ever so slightly. It was the kind of frown you would make in response to a faint, persistent hum in a quiet room. Akosua could have sworn her eyes narrowed ever so slightly, as if she were listening for something Akosua could not hear. And then it was gone, like a trick of the light. Akosua willed the gooseflesh threatening to break out over her back and arms away. She’d be damned before she admitted to anyone, even herself, that a skinny little waif like this Annemie was giving her the creeps.
“So uh...where are you guys going?”, she asked, relieved to find she sounded perfectly calm, casual even. “Annemie’s taking me back to her place...she’s got a little afterparty going”, said Eric, grinning like a damn fool. “Oh?”, Akosua asked, fixing her gaze firmly on Annemie’s. “Yeah...my cousins’re in town, and they just got started on a second keg with a few friends”, Annemie said. “I just came by to see if we could find a few more people to join in and well...”, she continued, glancing hungrily at Eric, “I got a little side-tracked”. “Oh.”, Akosua said. “I knew you were a towny”, said Eric, waggling a finger triumphantly, like a detective who just solved the big case. Akosua and Anniemay favored his remark with equally reserved chuckles, but Akosua was for from convinced. Why leave some other party to find new friends? Didn’t her family know enough people in town to get a party going without needing to drag complete strangers to their party? Akosua was growing uneasier by the second and it didn’t help that Annemie’s eyes were locked on hers once more, narrowed ever so slightly.
“Yeah...my family just moved into Hamilton a few weeks ago, and my cousins came over to give us “a real housewarming”, whatever that means,”Annemie said, breezily. “We didn’t get too many neighbors to swing by”, she continued, lamentfully. “I guess Hamiltons just the kind of place you need to have lived in a while before throwing a big get-together, huh?”, she said, and Eric positively brayed with laughter. Akosua chuckled, her unease hardly soothed by this. She didn’t live in Holland, but she’d been going to the local college long enough to know Hamilton was a rather large, rural town just 19 minutes away. A few of her friends from class and her dorm were from there, and Anniemie wasn’t wrong; you had to know a Hamiltonian a while before you really got to know them. Still...something about this girl….
“Wanna come?”, Annemie said, interrupting her thoughts. Akosua blinked, momentarily thrown off balance. “Er...”, was all she could manage. “I mean, you’re welcome...my cousins would LOVE to meet you, especially a girl as pretty as you”, Annemie gushed, pressing on. “Oh...thank you, but I’ll have to pass”, Akosua said, the walls of her mouth unpleasantly dry. “Got uh...test on Monday to study for, y’know”. “Oh,” said Annemie, looking away from Akosua. For a moment there...it sounded crazy but for a moment there Akosua could’ve sworn her eyes had been a different color. Gold, like the color of fresh, hot urine. The thought of urine suddenly made Akosua want to run for the bathroom, and away from this...weirdness. “Its the alcohol, thats all”, she told herself as her mouth made continued to make sounds in Annemie’s general direction. “Just a little drunk thats all...”, she thought, as she backed away from Annemie, whose grip on her brothers waist was now so tight her fingers carved distressed lines into the shirt he wore. “Well...have a good time, you crazy kids”, Akosua said, her face stretching out into a broad, toothy smile that felt strange and out of place on her face. The urge to run off to the bathroom was growing stronger by the second, and she was borderline frantic to be rid of Annemie. She was just a harmless little townie; a slut at worst. Let Eric go get his rocks off; hopefully after he was done with her he’d start thinking straight enough to see something wasn’t quite right with this girl.
“Well...if you change your mind, we’ll be at 4324 Moore Drive, okay?”, said Annemie, releasing Eric and stepping in for a hug. Akosua felt her flesh crawl as Annemie’s bare arms encircled her and brought her body close to hers. “It was really nice to meet you, Akosua”, Annemie said, over her shoulder. “You have an amazing brother.”, she said, stepping away to join Eric again, who seemed to have sobered up at least a little in the last few minutes. “See you soon, sis!”, he said, as Annemie led him away to a red Chevrolet parked a little ways down the street. “Bye”, said Akosua, numb. The throbbing in her bladder was receding, growing less urgent by the moment. Her thoughts were suddenly clearer, the air drawn into her lungs much more crisp. She heard a car start, out of sight.
“Must be Annemie’s”, she thought, willing herself to walk as calmly as she could down the stairs. Sure enough there it was, a lipstick-red Chevy, pulling away from a street lamp. Akosua whipped her phone out, taking three quick shots of the vehicle before it sped out of sight. When asked by police detectives why she had done so, the only word she could find that was accurate enough to describe what she had felt that night was this; “Instinct”. In those moments, nothing had felt as important to her as those pictures. “Her only wish”, a detective would note in his official report two weeks from that night, “was that she could have inspected those pictures sooner. Perhaps...”. The sentence is not finished; in fact, the word “perhaps” is barely legible under a layer a cloud of criss-crossing lines. Detectives are not allowed to indulge in the what ifs of a case. Only the cold, hard facts matter. And one of the many unfortunate facts of the night Eric Kennedy disappeared, was that a girl fell down the stairs leading down into the street with a piercing shriek, startling Akosua into dropping her phone. It split open, spilling its electronic guts over the cold, wet pavement. Akosua could only curse, and dive after the innards of her phone as the taillights of Annemie car swept around the corner and out of sight.
“You’re going to love my place”, Annemie purred, as the Chevy bounced over a speedbump and down a darkened road. “And my cousins”, she continued, flashing Eric that secretive Mona Lisa smile he was falling more and more in love with. “Yeah?”, he said, his ear still burning with the sweet promise of a threesome she had whispered into his ear just minutes before. “My cousins, Marie and Jo...they’ve got a thing for black guys too,”, she said, turning to him with a seductive little smile that made his heart race. “You, my friend...are about to have a VERY good night. Trrrust me”, she said, taking a hand off the steering wheel to run a finger down his lips, over his chest, and down onto the crotch of his pants. His eyes rolled back in his head as her fingers went to work; within moments they were curled around him, engulfing him in waves of pleasure he hadn’t thought possible before tonight.
In no time at all, they were pulling into a grassy driveway, worn flat by the treads of a hundred tires. The house next to it was large, a handsome two-story home with a porch, blazing with light from every open window. The countryside around it lay dark and silent. It would have been ominous if not for the music blaring quite audibly from what sounded like the second floor. Eric couldn’t quite place it; it definitely wasn’t something from this year, or this decade, even. It had a breezy, easygoing lilt to it, punctuated by guitars and a cheerful chorus of back-up singers. “What is that?”, asked Eric, turning to Annemie. “King Harvest...Dancing in the Moonlight”, said Annemie, with a breezy little grin. “That’ll be Jo...she just loves her Top Tens. C’mon in...everyones waiting”. And she led him up the porch and through an intricately carved doorway, from which music swelled as the door swung open.
Ten point six miles and 18 minutes away, in her little Honda, Akosua sighed with relief as her phone flickered to life. She turned it over, inspecting it for cracks; nothing to worry much about, save for a small, almost unnoticeable crack on the phones screen. Still, it was probably a good thing she’d hurried back in to re-assemble it as quickly as she could; who knew how much damage the damp, foggy air could have done to the circuitry? The familiar start up screen greeted her, asking for her password; she hurriedly obliged, fingers crossed. Thankfully everything seemed to be more or less in order; music played the way it was supposed to, and none of its apps appeared to be slower for the tumble. Still, she was kind of mad at herself for dropping it in the first place. She went from app to app, opening each for a brief inspection before moving on, satisfied. Now her finger hovered over the camera app, oddly hesitant. And suddenly she remembered why she’d been in such a hurry to re-assemble her phone in the first place; the pictures of Annemie’s license plates, taken in a heady moment of impulse she barely understood, even now. Akosua brushed a stray lock of hair from her face, breathing in. Might as well have a look.
The first picture struck her as nothing particularly alarming; it was a picture of Annemie’s car, plates clearly visible in the light of a nearby lamp. The second picture was the same, only slightly more zoomed in. Akosua frowned...she didn’t remember zooming in at all. Hell, there had only been enough time for three quick snapshots before the car rounded the corner and whisked out of sight. This one was more centered on the trunk of the car and the vehicles rear window. The trunk was slightly ajar in this shot, leaving narrow slivers of its dark interior exposed. There, almost obscured by the grain of the picture, were clusters of tiny golden specks, hidden in the gaps of the unsecured trunk. Her frown deepened and she swiped right, on to the next picture. At first she didn’t understand what was seeing. This one was a much closer zoom-in than the last one had been; she could practically see into the grainy rearview mirror, albeit barely. Only it wasn’t the rearview mirror that held her attention; it was the back of Annemie’s drivers seat. Annemie’s angry, sullen face was peering right back at her, a hundred and eighty degrees away from the road. It seemed to have melted into the fabric of the Cadillac's headrest to peer back at her, lip wrinkled with ancient contempt, eyes blazing with cold, yellow malice. Akosua screamed and dropped her phone, scooting as far back into her drivers seat as she could, her head pounding. From its place on the floor of her car, her phone began to play King Harvests “Dancing in the Moonlight”
Eric lay on Anniemie’s plush bedcovers, stunned. He could hear the sound of a shower running down the hall, and just below that, the Bee Gee’s “How Deep is Your Love”, playing on a radio. He’d have found any scenario with three gorgeous women showering for a foursome with a college sophomore hard to believe if he wasn’t already living it. Marie was a green-eyed redhead, a knockout in a blue crop-top and pink booty shorts. He could still feel her pendulous breasts flattening against his abdomen from his very warm reception at the front door. Jo, who hadn’t been far behind, had squeezed his ass with an impish grin before skipping away in a large purple college varsity shirt that ended just below her crotch. The sight of her lacy t-back dancing below her fluttering shirt had left a foolish grin on his face as Annemie led him up a broad staircase and down the hall to her room. His mind raced as he stared into the concentric circle design set against the pale grey ceiling above. A fishbone pattern ran through the circular space between each ring, creating an irritating thrumming behind his eyes that only intensified the longer he stared at it.
He rolled to the edge of the bed and exhaled, running his hands over his face. They came away greasy with skin oil and he grimaced, suddenly self conscious. “Maybe I should’ve gotten a shower with the girls”, he thought, looking around for a mirror. A wide, ornately framed oval mirror hung above a faded blue dresser to his right. Eric walked over, admiring the attention to detail lavished on the furled bronze leaves and tiny woodland animals wreathed around his reflection. The damage wasn’t as bad as he’d thought; besides a large, dark patch of sweat drying in the middle of his orange shirt and his slightly reddened eyes, he was fine. “Lookin’ good, feelin’ fine”, he thought, turning away from the mirror. A poster on the wall opposite the mirrors jumped out at him, catching him off guard. A man stared back at him, a jesters grin frozen on his broad, square jawed face. He wore a blue suit and green striped tie. His hair was immaculately oiled and parted at the side, like a character from the cover of a Hardy Boys mystery. His blue eyes flashed with neighborly good cheer as a weasel tore into his flesh, held in place by a steady hand to the left of the poster. Its long brown body ended in a black electric razors cord, trailing off to the left. He swallowed, fighting back an inexplicable trickle of unease snaking its way down his back. Three speech bubbles set against a golden background hovered around the man and the electric razor weasel. The first, just beside his ear, read, “THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION”. The second, just above his starched white collar, read “WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH”. And the third, to the right of his stoned half-grin, read “RZZZZZ!”. Had that poster always been there?, he thought, and immediately wondered why he had. Of course it had; he just hadn’t noticed it when Annemie led him in a while ago and threw him onto her bed with a playful warning not to peek in on the girls. And who could blame him; he certainly didn’t know anyone who would stop to notice an odd poster with a girl like Annemie in the room. The thought of her and the two other beautiful girls showering less than ten feet away warmed his fingertips again, but only for a moment. He tore his eyes away from the poster with a small, nervous cough, running a hand over the gooseflesh lingering on his arm. The rumpled, feather-stuffed bedsheets called to him, but try as he might the pins and needles breaking out over his back made the thought of relaxation impossible.
He turned towards the door, taking pains to avoid the unpleasant poster of the maimed man and his weasel. The shower down the hall had stopped running, leaving only the faint sound of the Bee Gees “How Deep is Your Love?”, to echo down the hallway. Eric stood in Annemies doorframe, straining to hear anything from the rooms down the corridor. He should have heard the sound of a blow dryer, or of female voices as they eased into lacy lingerie...or perhaps, more preferably, nothing at all. He could feel the heat in his pants ebb, and he wet his bottom lip, overtaken by a growing sense of dread. The olive-green wallpaper and the lamps lining the walls seemed to thrum in the near silence, quivering like the brass strings of a piano long after the last notes have been struck. Eric wanted to call out into the stillness, but his voice betrayed him. To disturb the almost total silence of the house seemed profane, though he couldn't imagine why that was. He would have remained frozen where he was for minutes, perhaps hours, had a rustling not come from the bedsheets less that four feet from where he stood. His heart lurched in his chest, freeing him from his paralysis. He stepped out into the corridor, eyes pulsing sickeningly in his skull. The same voice that forbade him from speaking moments earlier whispered to him again, urgent. Like a man trapped in a feverish waking dream, he walked down the corridor, step by step. There was a liquid squelching in the walls now, the kind of wet sucking and slurping you would notice from a noisy eater. “The bathroom door”, he thought. “If only I could reach the bathroom door, everything will make sense”. It swam dizzyingly ahead, a white rectangle bobbing on the shifting ocean beneath his feet. A sharp, incisive noise was coming from Anniemie’s room, tearing through what sounded like paper. He soldiered on, sinking a tooth into his lower lip to resist the rising urge to look back. “Thems be the weasels”, he thought, slapping a hand on the doorframe leading into the bathroom. A thinning thread of spittle hung from his lips, wetting the back of his hand as he wiped it away absentmindedly.
He pushed the door open.
From his place at the entrance of the bathroom, the world had stopped making sense in its entireity. The mottled brown plane that stretched before him pulsed with blind, alien vitality. The floor glistened with moisture, and his foot sank into the ground as he stepped forward. He uttered a low moan that trailed off into the humid air, a frail protest against the yellow buds of madness unfurling in his mind. Somewhere in his pocket, his phone rang. He retrieved it from his pocket and answered in a suprisingly calm and measured voice; “Yo”, he said, peering into the darkness beyond the reach of the light, dangling from a thin, arterial strand of flesh. “Eric!”, came the voice of his sister, hot with panic and fear. “I don’t know where you are, but you need to leave, quickly! You...you...hello? Hello Eric, can you hear me, HELLO???”
Eric let out a hoarse breath, and blinked very slowly. Time had slowed to a trickle, numbing his senses. He felt a brief moment of loss, for the life he had left behind less than an hour ago. He would miss them all; Akosua, Mom, Dad, the guys on the team. So may questions would be left unanswered. His gaze wandered over to the golden light trapped in its vascular, translucent sac. It helped keep his mind off the shrill chittering coming from the...things lurking beyond its reach. The fleshy surface beneath his feet groaned as a staircase leading down into unfathomable depths unfurled before him. He spoke into the phone plastered to the side of his face, his last words flat and painfully monotone. “Its a little too late for that, Akosua”, he said. The back of his neck felt hot, illuminated with the light of hundreds of unblinking yellow eyes, peering from the gloom. “It’s far too late for that.” And with that he walked down into the abyss, his path illuminated by a lone point of oily yellow light.
The following months were a time of great sorrow for the Kennedy family. The police never found the red hot Chevy speeding down the road at two in the morning, despite several witnesses at the party who remembered seeing the car. 4324 Moore Drive was a ghost, a nonexistent house on a street no one had ever heard of. And the girl Eric Kennedy had last been seen with, Annemie, was never heard from again.
Please do not ride with strangers into the night.