My legs burned as I sprinted back to our house. I was in our driveway when I remembered that Sachi had taken the car. Only then did I look back at the way I had come.
There were more. A lot more. And a big group of them rushed right at me.
Though my brain seized up, my body ran. I didnt look back this time. Everything burned but the giggles and childish sounds receded. I scanned the neighborhood as it blurred past. I knew that whatever was keeping me going wouldnt last long. I had to get to a vehicle.
I noticed colorful shadows around the houses I was approaching. I guessed that those creatures were already in front of me as well. A decrepit station wagon was the only safe-haven I could see. I seized upon it.
The drivers door was locked, as were the other doors. I kicked it a few times and considered finding a brick to use on a window but, thinking ahead, I knew I would need a secure vehicle and I had no idea how to hotwire.
The giggles swelled again. I decided to break into the house for a set of keys. It was harder than Id seen in movies. I sliced my leg on some broken glass. Fortunately the cut wasnt deep. I didnt have time to limp.
I hunted through the house, both for the keys and something to wrap my cut with. I kept an ear out for noises and searched methodically.
The bedroom. An unmade bed and nothing by the dresser.
Bathroom. Pink and frilly. I found some gauze and wrapped the cut.
I worked room by room until I tried the basement door, across from a closet. The door creaked like a long-held cry of agony. Each floorboard in the dark sounded angry I was there. Everything was dark. I held the door open to provide a little light but it was soon eaten up by half-finished walls and jutting, wretched fingers of nails.
I moved slowly. A moon-like, eerie light filled the lower section. I looked over at a small window half-covered by a garden. I clung to this area and tried to find the switch. The air felt stale and thick. I looked around a mound of rigid boxes. Nothing.
Turning around, I jerked back as I saw a pair of glowing eyes looking at me through a patch of darkness. I froze till the eyes issued a firm, Meow! at me. A furry face padded forth cautiously and began a half-hearted hiss.
I settled my shoulders and ignored the cat. At the far end of the room, I saw a glint of metal. Hanging on the wall was the darkened outline of keys on a ring. I stepped around the cat and took the keys.
I walked over to the window. I squinted and thumbed through the keys as the cat seemed to glare at my leg. None of them were marked. One looked like the mail box keys from the housing tract. Another seemed to belong to a music box.
I stopped at one in particular. It looked about the right size for lock on the door. It had the same brand name as the station wagon but that didnt mean anything for sure.
I noticed the cat had lost interest in my leg and was looking at something higher, something above me. I glanced up. Nothing. I looked back down. The light in the room seemed dimmer.
I turned around and saw a squirming mass of little hands fumbling at the glass of the window. It creaked as it began to swivel and open. The hands reached through, feeling out for me.
I clutched the keys tight in my hands and ran. The stairs and cat gave me a last, annoyed grumble as I left.
I slammed the door open and looked out. Standing a few feet away, with her head turning to look at me, was one of them. Her face and form burned into the deepest parts of my mind. She was looked not much older than twelve. She wore a dainty dress of black and white with ribbon-and-lace stockings and little black sandals. Her nose was small and her ears buried under long locks of dark pink hair like cotton candy that reached her shoulders. But I remembered her eyes most of all.
The light from outside flashed in them and they looked like polished wood with a crescent-moon sliver of white. They looked unnatural, almost supernatural. They looked like they could swallow me up if I stared too long.
Everything seemed to slow. My hand reached out for the closet door I remembered seeing. I pulled it forth like a shield between her and me. I dashed behind it as her hands reached out with anxious fervor. I kept the door in front of me as I dodged her flailing hand, hoping with all my heart that there wasnt one behind me or inside the closet.
I closed the door on her arm and she whimpered as she jerked it away and I shut the door tight. I felt the knob and found a keyhole but no latch to lock it. I clutched the knob tightly in my grip.
Despite her small size, the girl on the other end tugged hard. I leaned into my heels and tried key after key on the ring with my free hand. Sounds converged on the door. I fumbled in the dark, trying one key after another until one slipped all the way into the lock and clicked as I turned it.
I eased off the knob but the beings on the other end didnt stop. They kept pounding and pressing their hands against the door. I could see it buckle with twitches of light peeking through.
I felt the walls and thankfully found a switch. I flicked it as the assault on the door continued. The closet was small with many shelves covered in canned goods, old paint, some home-improvement tools, and a few heavy boxes.
I rapped on the walls and glanced around. At least I was alone, for now. But there were no other ways out than the door. I was trapped.
I checked the walls again. Except for the door, they were all sturdy. The ceiling was stucco. I grabbed a broom from the shelf and pounded it a few times. It was also secure. I needed time to think. I pushed the heavy boxes in front of the door and began to stack them. I moved one of the shelving units over to provide further coverage. The pile wasnt very tall but it seemed to brace the door for now.
I coughed and looked around once more. Uncovered by moving the boxes was a large pipe. It wasnt large enough for me to get through. I pressed my head to the pipe. Water roared through it. The door splintered on the hinges. I didnt have much time.
I thought maybe I could still use the pipe somehow. I pressed another shelf against the door in the meanwhile. I searched the tools for something to use. I settled on a small hacksaw. I leaned against the wall and hoped that what I had would cut through the material of the pipe.
I moved the saw back and forth as the door cracked open and little hands spilled out like Medusa hair. The barricade blocked them but I knew they would soon find a way around that. I sliced through the pipe until water began to pour out and I kept slicing until it became a torrent.
I wondered far too late for another strategy if these beings were like the snakes which enjoyed being in water. I cut my way all the way through. All the water pressure came forth, knocking me over. I thanked whoever built this house as the flood overwhelmed me.
The room soon filled up and cascaded through the broken door. I wiped the water from my eyes and mouth. It tasted bitter. I leaned over one of the bigger but lighter shelves. I held it in front of me as I worked my way out the door.
Though pushed aside, the creatures did seem to enjoy the water. They were giggling. Fortunately, it was enough of a distraction to buy me a few seconds to work my way around the mass of them and back to the kitchen, which was already flooding.
I kept my shelf shield back into the living room, which was now squirming with them. I doubled back before they noticed me and threw the shelf through the patio window. I ran through the opening. I took the ring of keys from my pocket and ran through the grass, leg throbbing and knowing that they were all probably closer than I wanted to know.
I kicked the backyard gate open with my good leg, making both legs cry in agony. I could see one of them through the window I passed. She looked like the same pink-haired one. Her hair was slick and soaked.
I ran and I ran till I made my way to the station wagon. I looked around on all sides of the car and pressed the key Id found into the lock. It slipped in but didnt turn. I yelled at it. I leaned into the door and took the key out. I tried it once more, looking around. I couldnt see any of them out here but I knew that would change. I tried the key again. I slipped it in and it clicked roughly against the lock. The metal lock popped up. I dashed onto the seat as one of them sprinted right at me. Her little fingertips pried into the door but I was able to get it closed and locked before she could wedge her way in further.
Her hair was short and black. Her eyes, blue and sea-like, seemed to plead at me. She softly cried, Pleaaaase! I just want to play with you! WE CAN BE FRIENDS!
I turned away and dug the key into the lock. She said more but I didnt listen. I turned the key quickly and it immediately cracked in the lock. I fumbled with the piece I had left. I saw the shadows of young girls converging on the station wagon. The car began to rock. I trembled and fingered at the fragment of key, cursing that Id trimmed my nails yesterday. Somehow, there was enough of the key to turn.
The engine, rough and old, rumbled to life. I nearly stripped the gears shifting into reverse. I plowed through the creatures and over a couple of trash cans as well. I backed into the street. One of them Id run over looked down at her bruised and crumbled arm, stretched it out, and snapped it back into place. In a few moments, the bruising was already beginning to lessen. With a gulp, I gunned it and swerved around a mass of them trying to get in front of the car. I swerved around corners and only when I was free of the housing tract did I begin to breathe normally again.
I turned onto the main road in town. I checked behind me first. No tag-alongs. Then, I checked the gas gauge. The indicator was just above the red E. I slowed my speed but the engine kept complaining and knocking against the hood. I hoped I had enough fuel to get to the nearest station on the outskirts of town. If they were there first, then Id figure it out when I got there.