Figures in the Night

caitlyn huebner

 

 

 

"Admit it, Ben. We’re completely lost."

 

"Relax, relax. I know exactly where we’re going." Ben inches himself closer to the steering wheel, hoping it will help him see further down the black, fog-lined road.

 

"We could have been relaxing in our luxurious honeymoon suite with the heart-shaped Jacuzzi and champagne. It's some anniversary, right? Being lost on some back, hick road is just PERFECT."

 

"What did I tell you Jemma? We’re not lost. I just need to keep an eye out for this one road sign. It should say something like Bishop Hill next right."


Jemma stares blankly out the passenger window. Ben glances over just in time to see a single tear run down his wife’s left cheek.

 

"Jemma, honey, we’ll be there any minute. I know this isn’t how you expected our first anniversary to go, but at least we’re together. For the next three days, we don’t have to worry about our jobs or your parents, or anything. For the next three days, it’s just you and me."

 

Ben reaches around in the dark for Jemma’s hand. She angles her whole body so it is facing Ben. Ben takes grasp of Jemma’s hand and kisses it softly. "You know I love you more than anything in the world right?"

 

Jemma leans in to kiss her husband. Since it’s been hours since seeing another car, Ben doesn’t think twice to turn away from the road and kisses Jemma back.

 

The two pull back after a moment and slowly rotate to see out of the windshield. Jemma begins to scream. "Ben! Look out!"

 

Ben slams on the brakes and swerves to the left.

 

Standing in the middle of the road is a woman, no older than her mid-twenties. The hi-beams of the car create a blinding reflection off her dirty, worn, once-white nightgown. Her long hair looks dirty and wet, and her skin has a grayish tint to it. She does not try to move. Rather, she just stands in the road staring at the rapidly-approaching car. Ben tries his absolute hardest, but he doesn't have enough time to finish the turn, hitting the girl anyway.

 

Ben presses his foot to the brake, bringing the car to a screeching stop. With the sudden commotion of trying to avoid a collision, both Ben and Jemma lose sight of the woman in the road.

 

"Are you alright, Jem?"

 

"Jesus, Ben don’t worry about me I’m fine. What about the girl?"

 

Ben pulls over to the side of the road and puts the car in park. He focuses his attention on the rearview mirror and rotates it around.

 

"I don’t see anything — anything at all," Ben adds, extremely confused. "Where could she have gone?"

 

The two continue to look without leaving the car, but the girl doesn't turn up. Ben finally unclips his seatbelt and reaches for the car door.

 

"I’m going to look for her. I need to know that she’s OK. You stay here. Call for help if I’m not back in 15 minutes."

 

"Call who? We don't have our phones..." Ben is gone before Jemma finishes her sentence.

 

She sits impatiently, watching her husband search all around the car in her side mirror. It takes no more than a minute before she emerges from the car holding a set of flashlights.

 

"You’re going to need this," Jemma yells chasing after Ben. Ben jumps, twisting his body around and presses his hand to his chest.

 

"My God, Jemma. You almost gave me a heart attack."

 

"Sorry."

 

"I thought I told you to wait in the car."

 

"I thought you might need some help."

 

"This isn’t a treasure hunt. I’m looking for a girl who just vanished into thin air."

 

"Well, I know that. I just don’t want you wondering off and deserting me in the middle of nowhere."

 

"Okay, just stay close. You wanna know something weird? There’s no dent, scratch or anything on the front of the car."

 

"Are you sure we really hit her? What if she ran out of the way last minute?"

 

"I felt the hit, though. It’s the weirdest thing."

 

"Almost like she actually did vanish into thin air."

 

"Oh Jemma, don’t start with your ghost stories; not here at least."

 

Just after Ben finishes his sentence, the couple hears what sounds like a twig snapping deep in the woods. This causes both to rotate their bodies to the right side of the road and shine the cheap emergency flashlights in that direction.

 

"Do you think that could be her?"

 

"There’s really only one way to find out." Jemma stares at Ben, nakedly afraid. Ben takes a firm, reassuring grasp on Jemma’s hand and leads her toward the woods. "Don’t worry. Everything will be alright."

 

The two walk hand-in-hand into the vast, fog-lined woods shining their flashlights in any which direction.

 

An hour passes; they walk so long that when Jemma turns her head back, she can no longer make out the outline of the car. The fog grows thicker the farther they press on.

 

"We’ve been walking forever, Ben. How do you even know we’re going the right way?"

 

"This is the direction that twig snapped. I just know it."

 

"I’m afraid we’re going to get lost in here. Then what do we do?"

 

"There are far worse things than getting lost in the woods. How about hitting a woman with your car and deserting her by the side of the road?"

 

"We wouldn’t be deserting her. She was the one who ran off!" Jemma screams, releasing an hour's worth of pent up emotions. "I just don’t know what to do. What if we’re going in the complete wrong direction?"

 

Ben pulls Jemma in for a tight, reassuring hug that everything is going to be alright, that everything will work out.

 

During the embrace, Ben notices something peculiar. He realizes that the two of them are standing slightly off-center of a large, circular clearing in the woods. There are no trees, no vines and, miraculously, no tall grass either.

 

"Jem, look." Ben pulls Jemma back from the hug so that she can witness the same phenomenon. "This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen."

 

"Do you think this is…man-made?"


"What’s that supposed to mean?"


"Like, ya know, satanic stuff?"

 

"Oh don’t be ridiculous. You really need to stop reading those mumbo jumbo scary stories. None of that happens in real life."

 

"But, Ben…" Jemma paces around the circular clearing stopping every few steps. "You’ve got to see this."

 

She holds up a tiny gold locket at eye level and shines her flashlight directly on it. Ben marches over to Jemma and grabs the locket out of her hand. "And there’s plenty more where that came from. There’s random stuff like that all over here."

 

Jemma continues walking, picking up a set of keys, crumbled up photograph of a boy no older than four years old, a pair of sunglasses, some sort of novelty sculpture, countless piles of change and even a pair of blue and green sneakers partially covered in moss.

 

Ben follows Jemma around on her Easter egg search for random objects. At first, he seems completely unfazed by the items she’s picking up along the way. Jemma, on the other hand, is utterly disturbed with the pile of items she’s collected at her feet.

 

"OK, Ben I’ve really had enough. We haven’t found her yet and it’s been at least an hour. I’m begging you— can we please leave? Whoever this girl is, she’s obviously fine if she’s been able to avoid us this long."

 

Jemma stands up, grabs Ben’s arm and attempts to pull his stiff body away from this area. "I’m freaking out. I want to go back to the car, drive away, get to the hotel and pretend like none of this ever happened. I’m done."

 

"Alright. Let’s go."


"What, really?" Jemma is surprised at how easily she persuaded her stubborn husband.

 

"Yeah. We haven’t heard or seen anything for a while now. Let’s just go."


Before being able to turn around to make the way back to the car, a crunching sound is heard to the left of the pair. "Hello? Who’s there?" Ben shines his light in the direction of the sound. It progressively gets louder and closer. A few sounds later it is clear that the crunching sound is footsteps against the dry leaves that blanket the ground.

 

"Ben, can we please leave now?"


"Well not now. What if that’s her?" Ben continues to shout beyond the clearing. "Are you alright? We’ve been looking for you forever. We wanted to make sure you’re OK."

 

A soft, feminine crying bounces around the heavily-wooded woods making it impossible to determine which direction the source is.

 

"Are you OK? We can help if you’re hurt. I really didn’t mean to hit you— I really tried to swerve out of the way but there just wasn’t enough time."

 

The soft crying gets louder and louder. Jemma is yanking Ben’s arm trying to get him to leave but he refuses to budge. The crying becomes so loud that Ben and Jemma cringe and cover their ears in hopes that it stops.

 

"If you need help tell us!" Jemma screams into the unknown.

 

The crying stops for a split second before turning into an ominous, almost demonic laughter. As the laughter swirls and suffocates the air around Ben and Jemma, a bloodcurdling scream causes a chill to travel all the way down Ben’s spine.

 

He starts to run, dragging Jemma behind him.

 

"Just keep running. Do not look back. Get to the car and everything will be alright. Just get to the car." The two run as fast as they possibly can all the way back to the car.

 

Jemma throws herself into the passenger seat and slams the door behind her, pressing down the lock to assure her safety. Ben slams his foot on the gas so hard and so fast that a cloud of smoke lifts upwards as the screeching tires finally grip the aged asphalt road.

 

They drive away, sitting in complete silence for the rest of the trip.

 

"Crazy night last one eh, Scott?"

 

"Yeah. I sat in my chair watching TV with a microwave dinner in front of me. Somehow I managed to pass six hours of my miserable life in this boring town."

 

"You’ll get used to it. When they transferred me here I went through the same thing. In ten years, you’ll start to forget what life was like in outside a small town."

 

The two police officers continue driving down a winding road with woods on one side and a small creek on another. Deputy Jones, the officer driving, slows down his car in reaction to seeing something up the road a few miles.

 

"Keep an eye out for anything suspicious," Deputy Jones tells his partner.

 

"Wha’do you think it is?"


"Not sure, Scott. Looks like something large, though."


"Should I draw my weapon, Sir?"

 

"Whoa slow down there, rookie. How about we get close enough to actually see what it is before taking any drastic steps like that." Jones continues approaching the object with extreme caution.

 

"Is that — is that a vehicle?" Deputy Scott, obviously the more anxious of the two, gulps in anticipation of what lies ahead. Deputy Jones slaps Deputy Scott on the back of his left shoulder.

 

"Ah relax, Scott. Someone probably ran out of gas and abandoned their car. We’ll just take a quick look. Let me page dispatcher and let them know what’s going on."

 

Deputy Jones picks up the walkie-talkie portion of the transmitter radio fastened on the dash of the car and begins talking. "Uh, dispatcher do you read me? I’ve got an abandoned car on Route 12, about two miles south of Bishop Hill Road. We’re gonna take a look…stand by."

 

A muffled voice responds to the call. "10-4, dispatcher is standing by."


Deputy Jones presses open the cruiser’s door, Deputy Scott trailing behind. The two approach the vehicle to see the front passenger door is ajar, keys still in the ignition and the car idling in park. The mechanical dinging alarm informing passengers of an open door rings down the bleak road.

 

"Scott, you go and check the car out for bodies. I’ma head back to the car and tell dispatcher we’re gonna need some help."

 

Deputy Scott inches himself towards the vehicle and peers in the back window, all while keeping a gap of a couple feet between himself and the car. Deputy Jones stands just outside the car and pulls the walkie talkie out so he can keep an eye on his apprehensive partner.

 

"Dispatcher this is vehicle 814. We’re requesting backup for the abandoned vehicle found. Could be a possible 10-57 or 10-54. Please notify search-and-rescue and have a coroner on standby."

 

"10-4 copy. Sending backup now."

 

Deputy Jones is in the process of returning the walkie talkie to the dashboard of his car when he hears Deputy Scott shouting from the abandoned vehicle. "Sir, I think you’re gonna wanna look at this."

 

He points to something just beyond the road. Deputy Jones walks over to Scott’s location. "There appears to be two sets of footprints heading into the woods. What’s protocol? Do we follow them or wait for backup?"

 

"Whoever was in that car could be in danger. Proceed with extreme caution. Well, Scott, looks like there’s some excitement in this small town of ours after all."

 

The two men follow the footprints, making sure to keep enough space as to not disturb the original sets. They walk, guns drawn, deep into the woods where they reach a circular clearing. They examine the area and all of the random items spread throughout. They both stop and examine one spot in particular.

 

"Oh, God. What could have possibly done this!?"


Deputy Scott is no longer able to contain his composure at the sight of the mangled body of a young woman. Lacerations appear up and down her arms, chest and face, her abdomen completely ripped apart. This young woman lay on her back in a crimson pool of aged blood.

 

Utterly disgusted by the scene, Deputy Scott attempts to retreat. He turns and begins to run. After only a few short paces Deputy Scott gets his feet caught on something. He is sent flying through the air and lands face-first against the hard soil.

 

He glances backward toward his feet to see what caused his stumble. There, he sees the bloodied body of a young male lying face down in a puddle of his own blood.


Scott slides backwards and slowly lifts himself back to his feet. "What could have done this? This poor woman is mutilated."

 

Deputy Scott moves to stand next to Officer Jones near the body of the unidentified woman. Deputy Jones has a pocket-sized notebook out and has already begun taking notes. "Probably just another bear attack."

 

Deputy Scott seems shocked at how easily Deputy Jones could detach himself from the crime scene. "Every now and then we have a person go missing. Few months later their bodies show up all mangled like these. They’ve always been classified as an animal attack."


"But what about the running car?"

 

"Come on, kid. Don’t start asking questions we’ll never know the answer to. Whatever made these two go into the woods in the first place is a secret that died with them."

 

Deputy Jones goes over to examine the male body. Using a pair of long tweezers, he removes a folded up piece of paper from his back pocket. "Hmm looks like these two were on their way to that fancy hotel two towns over. They’ve got reservations for three nights at the Rosewood Hotel. He’s got the reservation confirmation right here; looks like it was for a Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Tahlini." Deputy Scott continues to flip his eyes back and forth between the two bodies.

 

"I’ve got this covered here," Deputy Jones tells his partner. "How about you run back to cruiser and let dispatcher know we’re gonna need the coroner after all."


"Yes sir." Deputy Scott heads back in the direction of the police car. Out of the corner of his eye, something catches his attention.

 

He turns to look past the clearing and sees a woman in her mid-twenties staring at him. Her white nightgown is dirtied and torn. Her skin looks sickly with a grayish tint to it. Her dirty and wet hair hangs straight down a few inches above her abdomen.

 

Deputy Scott gestures towards the woman and takes only half a step toward her before she vanishes into thin air.



Caitlyn Huebner in a junior Communication major and Creative Writing minor. She loves Halloween and all things horror related; she aspires to be the next Stephan King/Edgar Allen Poe mix.