Headlights blaze down a wooded highway going just over the speed limit. Three figures could be seen from the faint glow of the dashboard and the light of the passenger's phone. A female with her hair pulled back drove the silver car. She had her head propped against her fingertips, elbow braced against the window. Her fingertips lightly pressed and massaged her temples and forehead, as if trying to fight off a growing headache. Her face was was drawn with circles deep under her eyelids. She wasn't wearing makeup, but even that probably wouldn't had masked her fatigue. She wore a thick brown coat over a her black long sleeved blouse to keep the night chill and the cold air blasting from the air conditioner at bay. Her hot natured friends insisted on keeping it cold in the car. Her loose jeans would barely stay around her waist if not for the old worn out belt that kept it up on her waist. The sneakers she wore wasn't faring much better, once white was littered with tears and black scuff marks from years of continued use and labor.
The second woman in the passenger side seat was still brimming with energy. The metal bracelets jingled and jangled as she danced in her seat to the soft music on the radio. Her eyelids were painted a pale blue, eyes lined with pink blush and lipstick to highlight the features on her face. She wore a tight pink sleeveless blouse accentuated her busy figure along with pants tight enough one would assume she was melted down and poured into them. Her toenails were painted a bright red that popped against the black of the open toed heels she wore.
The man in the back idly played on the phone while he listened to the radio and nodded along to the music. He wore red and black plaid flannel shirt and jeans. His leather coat laid on his lap to keep his legs warm. On his feet were black sneakers that looked fairly new despite the few scuff marks here and there. "So when do you think we can do this again," he asked, not looking up from his phone.
"I dunno. Soon. I had a blast tonight," the other passenger chirped. "Hey, Thana, when are you next off?"
Thana, the driver, shrugged, "I'm off three days next week I think. I can't really remember the dates."
"Thursday and Wednesday."
"Shit, I hope I have those days off."
Thana sighed quietly. While she enjoyed spending time with her friends, these outings took a lot out of her.
"What's wrong? Not feeling well?"
"I'm fine Krissy. Just tired.... Been a long day. I had fun though. I'm glad I was able to come."
Tommy shifted around in his seat, his own sigh audible, "How much longer til we get back?"
Thana glanced at the clock on the radio, "Another twenty, thirty minutes or so."
"Shiiiit, I can't wait that long," he groaned.
Krissy turned her head, looking at Tommy, "What? You gotta go poop? Does Tommy gotta go poop? There's a bush..." she teased.
Tommy took a long deep breath, "I. Am. Not. Bucky." He glared at her for a second before fidgeting around in his seat, "...Yeah... I gotta poop."
Thana gave an annoyed glance in the mirror, "I thought you went before we left?"
"Man I can't take a dook in a public restroom. Too many people."
Thana glanced around, through the windows, trying to get a better picture of where abouts they were. "Tom, we're in the middle of nowhere. There's not going to be a store down this road for another ten minutes."
Tommy grunted and groaned to himself, weighing his options. "Can't you pull over?"
"You want to shit by the car?"
"Ew no... The woods."
"Thank god," said Krissy, "That'd be an awful experience."
"Oh shut up," quipped Tommy.
"I'd rather you stay by the car Tom, as ... unpleasant as it may be for all of us, you'd be safer. Or I'd least feel better about it."
"There's nothing in those woods," said Krissy while reaching to turn the radio off.
"... Uh, yeah? There is. Bears, coyotes, bobcats, all sorts of snakes and shit."
"But it's winter. Bears are sleepin'," the other woman added.
Thana rolled her eyes, too tired to keep up the banter, "Want me to pull over Tom?"
He didn't reply right away, still thinking about his options but a loud grumble that could now be heard by all their ears roared from his stomach,"Yeah ... might be for the best."
Thana smirked a little and gave a little laugh, "Toilet paper is in the trunk," she said as she slowed down and pulled over.
Tommy pulled up the lock then pushed the car door open and left it open while he slipped on his coat, waiting for Thana to pop the trunk. He pushed it up and looked inside, his eyes searching for the treasure he needed, quickly finding it. "Yes!" He grabbed a roll and slammed it shut. He poked his head in one more time, "I won't take long," he said before closing it behind him.
The women could just barely see his silhouette disappear into the woods.
"...I swear, he coulda just stayed by the car."
Krissy rolled her eyes, "You worry too much."
"Well if something bites him on the ass, you can kiss it to make it better."
The lights dimmed back down in the car, "How long do you think he's going to take?" Thana looked over at the clock, a few minutes already gone by.
"I dunno, only takes me a minute to shit."
"... That just ain't natural."
Krissy laughed, "Yeah well-" The lights popped on as the sound of a car door opened, "SHIT!" Krissy screamed the moment she saw that the person at the door, wasn't Tommy but two complete strangers.
Thana turned her head to see two male figures standing outside her car door. She didn't get a good look at their figures or features but all she could make it out in that second was that one was taller than the other. It took only a split second for her to react, but for her it felt like an eternity. Her body moved on its on before her mind could catch up. She moved her foot from the break, having never parked the car and hit the accelerator. The car sped off, causing the man that was trying to get in to lose his balance, surprised that they reacted so quickly. The force from her speeding off closed the door for them.
"OH GOD! OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD! WHO WERE THEY?! THEY CAME OUT OF NOWHERE!" Krissy's booming voice was frantic. She looked behind her through the back glass, seeing that one of the men had starting running after them. His silhouette soon faded in a manner of seconds. The car had long out ran him.
"I don't know! Shit stop screaming!" There was a wicked pounding in Thana's ears. She couldn't tell if it was the pounding of her own heart she heard or the sound of her headache splitting her skull from the inside. "Shit!" Thana slammed on brakes after a few minutes, causing their bodies to jolt out of the seats for a moment. "Fuck! Fuck! Tom is back there."
Krissy fumbled with her phone, calling his cell just to hear a familiar ringtone playing in the back of the car. "Oh no..."
"...Probably for the best. His phone would be a give away." Thana closed her eyes for a moment. "Okay. ... Okay, I'm turning around."
"What? Why?! Those men will kill us! Can't we call and wait for the police?"
"Fuck them. It'll take them hours to get here."
"How do you know?"
"My house alarm went off by accident. Took the bastard an HOUR to come. So forgive me if I don't trust the their timing." Thana reached into the console for her phone, turning it on mute and shutting the vibration off. "Listen. Drive me back up there. Keep driving by every few minutes but don't stop unless you see me or Tom. You stop for nothing else. If you see one of those bastards in the road, run them over. Run the mother fucker over, hit reverse and do it again. You make sure he's dead and speed off." While she was talking, Thana reached over Krissy and opened her glove compartment, pulling out pistol that was tucked away in its holster.
"You have a gun?!"
"Yeah? So?" she checked the clip, making sure it was full. "Good. Fully loaded ... but just in case..." she reached in for the small box of bullets that she stored there along with her gun.
Krissy looked appalled, "What the hell are preparing for? A gun fight?"
"It might just lead to that. I'm not taking chances. There's hungry wildlife and crazy men out there. My car keys aren't going to provide me with much protection." She flipped through her console again, moving the junk that she never bothered to throw away, "Dammit. I thought I left a pair in here."
"Brass knuckles. ... Shit, fuck it. I'm wasting time." She instead wrapped her hand a thick roll of quarters and shoved it into her pocket along with her pocket knife. "I'll leave my mace in here ... just in case you need it."
"I can fight."
"Don't bitch about having an advantage." Thana snatched open the car door and stepped out.
"We're really doing this?" Krissy groaned as she opened her door and got out. "I can't believe you want to go back."
"He's a friend. You don't leave friends behind," Thana snapped.
Once inside and places swapped. the two became quiet. Krissy reached over and flicked off the lights. The dolled up woman sat there for a moment, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness around them before pressing the accelerator.
Krissy looked over to Thana after their short ride came to an end, "What if ... neither of you come back?"
"Then you find a cop and make sure our corpses don't become food for the forest critters. … And feed my dogs. Make sure they’re alright until my parents can take them.”
Krissy frowned at the sarcastic remark, "I'll keep calling the police."
Thana open the door and stepped out, "Yeah, make sure you do. Just remember to watch out for us alright?"
Thana nodded before quietly shutting the door. She wasted no time in jumping the ditch and trudging through the brush and trees.
The forest was eerily quiet save for the yips and barks of coyotes in the background, somewhere in the woods. The air was cold and the wind just as unforgiving. Adrenaline was enough to keep her going and fear kept her alert. Her eyes darted every which way looking for any beast or man that might be lurking nearby. Thana had walked for minutes through the woods before she decided to crouch down and lean against the tree. She wasn't far from where she left Tommy and the two strangers. She let out a long nervous breath then deeply inhaled. The cold air burned her nose and her throat, but holding her breath was the only thing keeping her teeth from chattering.
"Wh... the...uy go?"
She turned her head, trying to find the source of the sound.
"Stupid ... mother fucker. That's the second time you've fucked up," spoke a deep, gritty voice.
The voice became louder, clearer. The rustling of leaves and snapping of twigs started to become rhythmic. Thana pressed her back against the tree and held onto the roll of quarters as tightly as she could, her other hand wrapped around the grip of her pistol. Relief had washed over her for brief second. From the sound of it, her friend was still safe.
"Don't pin this on me. It was your idea to go after the two in the car first," voiced the other, his voice more nasally than his partner.
The rustling stopped a ways behind the tree she was hiding behind.
"Man what if they call the cops? ... Aren't you worried about that?"
"The cops can't do shit even if they do come. Wild dogs and birds will pick the bodies apart. ... Shh... you here that?"
She hadn't noticed it herself at first but there was a scream in the distance. Thana rubbed her eyes, shaking her head. Leave it to Tom to start a fire while still holding the matches.
Two silhouettes rush by, running toward the screech of their would be next victim. Thana pushed herself up off of the tree and rushed forward after the two, or as fast as she could. She woods were dense, at least in the particular patch she was hiding in. If she wasn't paying attention she could easily slam herself into the towering trees.
It wasn't long before they caught up to her screaming companion. She wasn't close enough yet to see them, but she clearly heard the struggle and his inaudible yells.
"NO! Please!" She heard his voice crackle in his panic. "Uhf!" She heard a thud and a groan.
"Shut up," spoke the nasally one. "Lets just gut him already and get out of here. We don't got time to mess around."
"I told you, there ain't cops for miles. We got plenty of time to have a little fun," said his gritty counterpart.
Thana stopped her stride and knelled against a thick tree while reaching into her pocket and pulling out her knife, carefully unfolding it "Tom! Tom are you out here?!"
The men went silent.
With gritted teeth she waited, listening for the soft rustle of footsteps that crept closer. Silently as she could, Thana moved around the tree opposite of the sound, keeping in pace with the man's steps until she was behind him. Her heartbeat was pounding so loudly she could barely hear the man's steps come to a halt just a short distance away. Her teeth grinded with anxiety and impatience.
"Shit ... missed her," she heard him mutter.
She pressed her back against the tree, her heart racing, hand twitching with anticipation.
Crunch ... crunch ... crunch ... the sounds getting closer. Crunch ... crunch... crunch ... he walks on by.
With adrenaline in her veins and purpose in her swing, her arm snatched the man by the mouth from behind, muffling his surprise and with one quick motion, the blade of her knife sliced cleanly through his jugular. She let out a ragged breath as she let go of his body, dropping it with a thud.
"Hear that? Bitch is dead," the man laughed, taunting his victim. "Hurry on back. .. I'll let you have the first turn."
Thana's legs were shaking as she trudged away from the body, it still gurgling and gasping for final breath. "Don't look back," she whispered to herself while wiping the blade and her hand on her jeans. Her skin crawled as his blood soaked through the fabric.
"Hurry up," he said.
She lingered behind a tree for a moment, now able to make out Tom and his captor. The tall man was kneeling, his hand buried into Tom's head. Even from here in the dead of night, she could plainly see just how scared he was, his whole body quaking, afraid to move or even speak. She didn't see a knife in his hands, but she was sure that he had one. She closed her own knife and pulled out her roll of quarters, her fist refortified with metal behind it. Her eye quickly darted along her path looking for any stumps or branches that would get in her way. She backed up a few paces and with everything she had started running full force. Thana pulled back her fist, leaping out of the black night and slammed her fist into his face, tackling him off her friend's form.
The sound of his yell tore through the night, her fist knocking him senseless.
Thana scrambled up to her feet then stomped her foot squarely on his temple with every intent to kill him. After a few kicks she backed away from his unmoving form. Her breath was heavy and rugged, body trembling with what she had done. She turned to Tom, who had scrambled up to a sit but sat there paralyzed on the ground, shocked to see her still alive. She approached him, pulling him up by the shoulder and onto his feet. "Let's go. Lets go! Now!" She forced her words into a whisper, unsure if there was more people out there. Thana dragged Tom along, not waiting for him to recover from his shock.
"I thought he... you're..." he wheezed, trying to make sense of what was going on.
"Shut up and move. There might be more here," she hissed.
“Thana… Thana listen… I saw … saw a dead body.... I…” his teeth chattered as he talked from the cold and his own racked nerves.
“Shh… shh… we’re leaving now. You’re safe. We’ll talk later okay?” Her voice was more sincere than usual, trying to help sooth and keep him calm as possible.
He nodded with a whimper, just happy his friend was alive and they were about to reach safety.
The two rushed through the woods, pushing through low tree branches and high bushes until it finally started to thin and end in a slope, the road finally in view. With another yank from Thana, Tom was encouraged to follow her to the side of the road. Sighs of relief escaped them when the saw the familiar shape of a vehicle stop immediately in front of them. Tom wasted no time in snatching the door open and diving into the car. Thana leaned down to get in when grabbed her from behind and yanked her away from the car. While the car sped forward Thana landed on the hard black top, just to scramble up to her feet and break into a run the opposite direction of the car.
Thana could feel him gaining on her, hear his boots stomp on the pavement and his breath gasping just behind her. There was no where to really turn. The woods would block a fast escape. Thana gulped and hoped for the best. She came to an abrupt halt, dropped to her knees and braced herself for the impact. His legs tripped over her body, sending him flying over her and herself into the pavement. They both took a moment a moment to get to their feet, both dazed by the impact, but it gave her the distance she needed.
"Little ... little bitch…. I saw ... what you did..." he panted as he got to his feet and stammered forward, catching his balance. He leaned down, pulling out a knife from his boot. "I'll make you squeal like a pig for that."
"Tch... why so pissy...? You were going to do the same to us anyway." She took a few steps back as he came toward her, "Pity he died so quickly," she spat as she pulled her pistol from its snug holster and halted his stride from the sight of it. "Oink oink mother fucker." She squeezed the trigger.
He dropped the knife as he made a dash toward the woods, the bullet just narrowly missing him. More shots were to follow as he dived into the woods, seeking refuge behind the trees.
"God damnit!" She roared in frustration. Her hands were shaking violently from her nerves. Even the breath she held while shooting wasn't enough to steady her aim. A honk caught her attention, her friends beckoning her to get in the car. She looked at the car for a moment then back to the woods. She still had plenty of bullets left and more in her pocket. "Fuck it. He needs to die." She raced toward the woods, pushing into the dense brush to follow.
She could hear him running ahead of her, his feet were no longer gingerly casing the forest floor, but stomping to gain distance between him and the bullets. She launched forward following the sound of his footsteps.
Coyotes howled and yipped close by. She could hear the growls and the snarls in the distance. The scavengers had found the body she left, it now obvious why they had chosen this area despite the risks.
She heard his stomps come to a grinding halt with a yell of panic behind it, "Shit!" The man backed away slowly, his attention now on the wild dogs in his path. He could hear the morbid cackle of the woman a ways behind him.
"This is ... this is outstanding! Predator against predator! A wonderful end!" She laughed at the sheer irony, her voice maniacal and twisted from the sheer loathing and hate she had over this monster of a human. "I bet you've been feeding them well...." she muttered as she aimed the barrel of the gun, her finger switching on the lazer pointer on her gun, aiming right for the back of his leg. She took a deep breath and watched his movements as he backed away still, the coyotes now owning his full attention. With a squeeze of the trigger the bullet ripped through his leg and for a brief moment caused the pack to retreat from the sound.
She took a step back, watching him flail and cuss about for a moment before turning away and breaking into a run. She wanted to get far away from there as possible before she became an item for their dinner menu. Her legs didn't waver, not even from the sound of his shrieks and screams along with the sounds of hungry snarls that was no doubt tearing into him right now.
She was out of the woods before she knew it, and found herself face first in the ditch, having tripped on her way out. She coughed and groaned while climbing to her feet. This time when the car pulled up, a hand was there to pull her in, not giving anyone or anything a chance to snatch Thana away again.
Thana slumped over in the backseat, with no more adrenaline to fuel her, she was left gasping for her breath, her chest heaving , body shaking. The two were speaking but their words didn't reach her ears. All she heard was the sound of her own lungs gasping for substance. Finally after minutes had passed, she pushed herself to sit up to find two worried faces staring back at her.
Tom's face contorted from worry and fear, and wet from tears, "You came back for me! I can't believe you came back! I'm so glad!" He practically threw himself in her arms, hugging her tightly in relief and appreciation.
Thana's hand gently rubbed her friend's back as she looked over to Krissy. Krissy turned her head briefly, "Are you hurt? What happened?"
"Focus on the road," she said, her voice still a little maniacal and breathy. "Just drive... I just .... need to calm down for now." Thana slumped back against the seat, completely drained. She looked at Tom and watched his lips move as he went over what he saw and what happened but the words didn't sink in. She was light headed and still dazed but most of all, she was tired. She closed her eyes, ready for sleep to take her.