William VanGaurd was by no means a likeable man. He was the type of man who’s loyalty belonged to the highest bidder. He judged a man’s worth by the shoes on his feet and the jacket that hung from his shoulders. He was the kind of man too blinded by his own wealth and vanity to see the wicked foolishness his life revolved around.
It was a chilly day for September. William hated this God forsaken part of the country. He should be sitting in Huston with Frank and Louis pouring down martinis in the lounge of the Buckston right now. His Rolex watch read 7:18pm. “They’re probably just starting to tie one on”. He thought without the slightest hint of amusement. “Not me though. Here I am on the other end of the country. On my way to some hick town where the local bumpkins marry their cousins and produce genetic freaks. Like a bad buck ninety-five 80’s horror movie.” He thought with a grim look smeared across his face. “Oh well. That’s just my rotten luck.” He sulked as the gas pedal of his full sized luxury sedan crept ever closer to the plush burgundy carpet lining the floorboard.
The sun hung low in the sky. The shadows were beginning to grow tall as dusk began to submit to the stranglehold of night. It’s icy fingers slowly wrapping around the sun. Choking it until all light was completely extinguished.
William rounded a bend in the deserted country road he had been rolling down for nearly twenty minutes. The sudden unexpected business trip had left him in a foul mood, but money was money. He would have driven to Alaska to close the Johnson deal. It was too big to lose. Especially in his current financial crisis. His bank statement last month was highly unsettling. Without the revenue from the Johnson deal Mr. VanGaurd’s account was dangerously close to slipping below six figures! Louis and that pack of wolves at the country club would surely have something to discuss over lunch then wouldn’t they? No that wouldn’t do. William wouldn’t give them the pleasure of dragging his good respectable name thru the mud. Not to mention if he didn’t get his affairs in order soon he may have to postpone next summer’s cruise. Oh how William loved his yearly cruise. He had enjoyed one religiously since father had taken the family when he was a boy.
He entered a set of S curves in the dusty old road. The curves were tighter than most and tall evergreens lined both sides. Visibility was dangerously low. The white Cadillac sped thru the series of curves quickly and smoothly. Suddenly as he rounded the final bend something tall and thin darted out from behind the tree line. The indefinable apparition shot directly in front of the Caddy and across the road. Avoiding Williams bumper by barely an inch. Then disappeared into the opposing trees like a mist evaporating into thin air.
William swerved hard, locking the brakes and fighting the wheel as the car careened into a fishtail. In the confusion and panic the large car struck something on the shoulder of the road. It was big and meaty sounding as it was sucked under the big machine. It happened so fast all William saw was a blur of brown before it rolled under the chrome bumper. “Probably a small deer.” William reassured himself after the Caddy had finally came to a rest. It was nearly in the ditch on the opposite side of the road.
The unknown road kill had shot from under the car and rolled into the ditch. It didn’t look like a deer and Mr. VanGaurd knew it. “I guess I better check it out.” he decided as he quickly assessed his own wellbeing and came to the conclusion he was fine. Pretty shook up and his neck felt tweaked a little, but he was otherwise fine.
“What the hell ran out in front of me?” Was the next thought to pass thru his nearly panicked mind. “It looked like a silver blur. No real shape to it. No distinguishable lines.” The reality of the whole situation was beginning to settle in and he was scared. Sweat began to ball out of the pores on his forehead as he climbed out of his luxury automobile.
William surveyed the area. Slowly scanning the tree line left to right. The wind moaned thru the wall of evergreens and he shuddered . A deep chill shook him to the bone. Whatever ran out in front of him was in those trees. Stalking silently. Watching his every move. He had to see what was in the ditch and get the hell out of here.
As Mr. VanGaurd approached the white line on the edge of the asphalt the heap lying in the shallow ditch came into view. Williams deepest fears were confirmed. It was a man. A dirty mess of a man in ragged, torn, and tattered clothes. The shabby looking fellow appeared to be carrying a makeshift tote sack. He wore a brown overcoat and had a big dirty beard. His ratty long brown hair was soaked with blood. “It’s a filthy stinking bum” William thought with a sudden boost of superiority. “Even out here those pieces of road trash are a nuisance.” He snorted out loud.
Suddenly the crumpled heap lying in the ditch made a noise. Thick and wet. His leg twitched a little. He was still alive. He was bad. William was no doctor but he knew bad when he seen it, but he was still alive.
William paused. What now? Maybe this man could be saved. The last town was about fifteen miles back. The chances of survival were slim to none for this unfortunate fellow. “Not that it would be a great loss from the looks of those rags he’s calling clothes” he thought as he stood along the deserted roadside. The man had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. The wind kicked again and through the tree’s he could hear a strange voice. The language the voice was speaking was not clear to William. He knew some French and a bit of Chinese but this wasn’t like any language he had ever heard. It was like he could feel the strange words burning into his brain. Leaving a deep brand. Intense fear began to grip him. He could see a soft glow behind the huge pine trunks. It slowly began to get brighter. The voice was getting louder in his head.
He panicked. If ever William VanGaurd had a moment of bravery in his life it was surely not that cold night in September.
He took one final glance down at his unfortunate victim and he ran. William ran as fast as his six-hundred dollar Italian loafers would carry him. He dove into the drivers seat of the long white car and cranked the engine. William VanGaurd was a lucky man. The Cadillac had sustained very little damage. The front grill was busted and there was a small dent in the hood with a bloody trail splattered halfway to the windshield, but nothing serious. It fired right up.
Mr. VanGaurd never looked back. He didn’t want to see what was coming out from behind the trees. He didn’t want to see the filthy hobo dying by his hand in the muddy, blood smeared ditch. So he just drove. Eye’s locked to the road ahead. He reached for the rearview mirror with a shaking hand. Desperately pawing at it never giving up a glance. He smacked down hard and the mirror came off in his hand. He didn’t even acknowledge it, as he blankly chucked it into the backseat.
William drove for an hour before he saw any sign of civilization. He rolled into a small village south of the city. He had to get some rest. The insanity of the night had drained him fully. He just wanted to find a bed and try to forget this nightmare ever happened. “From the look’s of the chap in the ditch he’ll not be soon missed.” William thought as he veered the big car into the parking lot of a small motel to the left of the interstate. “Not the kind of establishment a VanGaurd would normally be caught dead at!” William thought with a twinge of shame. “But I’ve got to be in the city by 9:00AM and I have got to get some rest. Tonight never happened.” The fool told himself. “Nobody was within twenty miles of those curves.” He struggled to maintain as the sight of the injured man replayed itself over and over in his mind. “That was just my mind working against me. There never was anything in the road. I must have just dozed off and hit the guy. No big monsters just an accident.” He struggled the rest of that night to convince himself of this lie. He didn’t get much rest.
The next day Mr. VanGaurd felt better. The light of day seemed to ward off the demons of the night before. Somehow he managed to pull himself together enough to get to the city and close the deal with Mr. Johnson. He did his best to push his conscience aside. when he thought about the hobo or the light he immediately forced the memory out of his mind with visions of the open ocean and the endless blue sky. Luncheons on the top deck of a luxury ocean liner and cold margaritas in the moonlight. As he rode southward (taking a great bit of care to reroute the trip home.) it became harder and harder not to think of his terrible crime. He’d left that man to die. Plain and simple. A simple phone call to the local authorities may have been the difference between life and death for the lowly beggar. William never made that phone call. Instead he ran like a screaming little girl. Nearly wetting his pants as he scampered off like a coward. He was not proud of what he had done. Yet he justified it by the fact that the man appeared homeless. “Better off dead than in some cardboard box.” William thought to himself coldly. “The poor bastard was probably starving to death anyhow.”
As night fell Mr. Vangard was rolling strong. He temporarily was in an ocean cruise fantasy as he rolled down the strait stretch of a dusty back road somewhere between hell and home. In the distance something caught his attention. William could see the outline of a person up the road a ways. As he drew closer he could tell it was a man. He was wearing a business suit and was carrying a large black briefcase.
“Hmm nice suit.” William thought. As he approached the finely dressed dark haired young man, He looked very out of place on this dusty deserted road. William felt a rare twinge of conscience. “I guess this is my good deed for the day.” he thought as he fought away the sight of the dying man from the night before. “Besides it’s not safe for a man to walk the roads at night.”
The big Cadillac with the dented hood began to brake. It pulled up slowly beside the tall dark businessman. He stopped walking. William couldn’t see his face at first. As he stared at the chest of the well made jacket he felt a sudden chill of terror overtake him. He nearly slammed the pedal down and raced away, tires squealing, smoke rolling. Before he could react to his unwarranted fear it was too late. The pale skinny man was in the window a big somewhat unsettling smile stretched across his thin lips. His face looked strange. Like a Halloween mask stretched to thin and a little crooked. It was as light as milk. The man’s eyes were as black as the suit he wore.
William just froze. “How far you going?” William heard himself ask the dark stranger. “All the way.” The man replied as he opened the passenger door. William had seemingly lost himself somewhere between when he had spotted the shape in the distance and the present. It was like he was on auto pilot. Just going thru the motions.
“What are you doing way out here?” William asked with a cracked dry voice as the man sat down beside him. “Got some business down the road here. I keep track of the delinquent accounts.” the man said emotionlessly as the car began to roll on its own.
William was approaching the thresh hold of a scream as he realized his seatbelt was slowly tightening. He couldn’t talk. Couldn’t make a sound. Something was terribly wrong with this whole situation.
“You racked up quit a healthy debt last night Billy.” The creature in the passenger seat began. “I’m sorry to inform you but your payment in full is required immediately.” Tears began to run from the corners of Williams eyes as he tried desperately to scream. The seatbelt restricted his lungs making it increasingly hard to breath . He turned to the beast next to him. The image of a fine young businessman had transformed into a horrendous demonic abomination. It’s eyes burned like the flames of hell and two huge protruding horns sprouted from it’s disfigured forehead.
The creature retch out and took William by the arm. Moving swiftly the monster lunged forward. Large razor sharp teeth gnashing. They ripped into Williams hand severing it just above where the thumb connected to the palm. Blood spewed from the mangled stump where his fingers once were. The creature munched away merrily as it laughed and bounced around franticly in the seat. Pure joy and excitement poured from the beast as it cackled and hooted. William began to black out. The last thing he saw as he dozed was the cars speedometer steadily rising. Bypassing the 100mph mark. Then the world turned black.
When William awoke it was raining. He could feel the cold drops hitting his exposed face. The car was in the road beside him wheels up. Flames rose into the air out of the wreckage. He must have been ejected. His body was racked with pain. He hurt so bad he felt as though he couldn’t even move his arms or legs. They felt so heavy and so light all at once. Abruptly he remember his sinister passenger. Head trauma… It was a hallucination brought on by head trauma.
Just then William heard a sickening snap near the hood of the upturned car. It was a strange crunch like breaking the wishbone of a dried up thanksgiving turkey. Only much louder. Then smaller crunches like someone chewing a piece of hard candy.
William tried to scoot around to see what was making the unique sound. Pain shot from every limb and he uttered a light squeaking whimper. The crunching suddenly stopped. The strange voice that had pierced his brain the night before flooded back all at once. It filled his head like helium filling a balloon. William thought his head would explode. His eardrums did. Blood ran down both his earlobes.
From around the hood of the car the demon from his all too real nightmare stepped out. Smiling it began dance around happily. It looked to be chanting in a sing song fashion. William couldn’t hear him. He couldn’t hear anything anymore. Though the Maddening voice still filled his mind.
There was blood running from the hoofed beast’s sharp deadly mouth. In one clawed hand it held a dripping gnawed stump of an arm. The realization hit William like a stack of bricks. This wasn’t a dream. His arms and legs weren’t heavy they were gone. He had become a snack for this collector of souls. He was paying his debt.
William Vangaurd closed his eyes one final time. Behind his eyelids he found a blue sky hanging above a deep green ocean. He was on a luxury liner in the south pacific. Then the beast was upon him. The green sea ran red. William VanGaurd forever floats on it’s crimson waves. Beware the Night Walker.