Serial and Milk: Available Darkness – Chapter Ten
(Serial and Milk: Available Darkness is a serialized thriller co-written by David Wright and Sean Platt. A new chapter appears here each Friday. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them here.)
Abigail tried to cloak her fear, but quivering limbs gave lie to the guise as she stepped from the safety of the hotel room and into the smeared tangerine sunset.
Clad in an indigo hooded jacket, draping down nearly to her knees, she hoped to adopt the disguise of a wee woman on her way to the car. Nothing to see here, folks, no siree.
A simple request from John, to move the car, but he may as well have asked her to initiate a shuttle launch. Abigail had never driven before, and the last time she was a willing passenger was before her parents died, back when she was seven. Her memories of driving with her father hazy enough to make her wonder if they were of her own invention.
Yet, when John requested she move the car, she had agreed without a flinch. What else could she say? She had to be brave for the angel who drew her from the depths of her living hell. Before leaving the room, John explained the basics of driving a car, which she committed to memory and wrote down on a piece of hotel stationery – just in case.
The parking lot was fuller than it had been the night before. That was probably a good thing, as she was far less likely to be spotted. Abigail’s mind kept moving and it was only a half second later that she realized a crowded lot also increased the odds that someone who had seen the news of her ‘abduction’ might spot her and phone the authorities. Whatever happened, she did not want to fall into the hands of the authorities or anyone assigned to protect her interests. Their previous failure had already left her with plenty of scars that had no hopes of healing.
How could a child drop off the radar in this day and age? How could she be pulled from school, locked in a dungeon and held prisoner for three years without anybody even realizing she had been stolen and sold to monsters?
The agencies designed to protect her had failed and she would not ever trust them again.
She felt safe with John. Safer than she’d felt in years, even though she knew a brush from his skin could end her in an instant.
Something happened when they briefly touched, something reason couldn’t explain. A bridge had connected them, an overpass stronger than any physical bond. Though it hardly seemed possible, she felt as if she’d known John a lifetime already – this thing that had entered her life in an eruption of death and mayhem not even 24 hours ago. She hadn’t seen all his memories, only glimpses, but it was enough to know he could be trusted. He would fortify her against whatever fury the world had lying in wait.
As Abigail neared their vehicle, parked about 90 yards from their room, a family of four spilled from a dusty minivan.
A boy and girl, both younger than six, first looked at her with a passing glance before they locked their glance into a stare. Their mother, a heavyset woman with a skittish expression also gazed at her a second before rushing the kids to grab their stuff and then quickly closing the gate. The mother stole a second glance at Abigail, but Abigail broke the stare, pointed her nose at the concrete, and kept walking towards the car.
She thought the woman was still looking at her, perhaps silently wondering, “is that her – the missing girl?”
Abigail’s heart gathered a few extra beats as she approached the stolen car. She considered passing it, suddenly certain the family recognized her as The Child, and was now scrutinizing her every move. Just as she reached the car’s bumper, she turned right, opened the car door and climbed inside.
She slid back in the front seat, craned her neck, glanced in the rearview mirror and saw the family was not watching her after all. She exhaled with bottomless breath she hadn’t even known she was holding.
Abigail retrieved the instructions from her pocket, unfolded them and started to read. She reached down and pulled the seat up as far as it would go, leaned close to the wheel and stretched her bare feet down to touch a gas pedal that felt half frozen against her foot. She inserted the key into the ignition, whispered a silent prayer to a God she knew had long ago stopped listening (if he had ever lent her an ear at all) and turned the key as her heart slid to the bottom of her chest.
The car lurched backward before her foot found the break, then stopped with a sharp shudder, throwing her like a rag doll against the cracked leather seat.
Her eyes flitted across the windshield nervously as she tried to determine whether or not she had gathered attention, but the parking lot was deserted. She slowly backed up before sliding the car into “Drive” and edged towards the lip of the parking lot.
The highway was busy, so she waited for a lull, praying nobody would drive up behind her or worse, that a cop would drive past.
She spotted a break in traffic, just enough to get out quickly and make a sharp right.
Turning the wheel rapidly in her hands, she misjudged her speed and the car veered violently into the next lane.
Abigail looked up just in time to see a red truck barreling towards her in the same lane. She was helpless, spinning the wheel faster until the car corrected, then over corrected and bounced up on the sidewalk and then back to the road again with a thud. A horn blasted as the truck jerked left and into the far lane missing her by barely the breath that was trapped inside her throat.
Once in the correct lane, Abigail slowed the car to a speed that was far from the tempo of the heart that was thudding against her chest. The shopping center was barely a block away, nothing between it and her other than a squat flat gas station. She would turn right, park the car and run back to the hotel as fast as her scrawny legs would carry her.
Just as she passed the gas station, she heard the unmistakable sound of a siren, looked up and saw the flash of the cop car’s light bar.
She froze, her foot still on the pedal, driving slowly, and hoping the cop was really just wanting her to move out of the way so it could chase down somebody else.
The cop’s siren blurted in a hiccup, followed by a man’s voice crackling gravel through a speaker.
TO BE CONTINUED…
We’ll be fielding any comments or questions you have in the comments section, so stop by. We’d love to hear what you think. Also, please tweet this post and help spread the word about Available Darkness and nurture online fiction.