Somewhere in the middle of nowhere ….
Overgrown vegetation lined both sides of the rural backroad, threatening to swallow it whole. Despite the near zero visibility, the man pushed onward. He had no fear of steering into an abyss. Florida didn’t have abysses. At least, none that he was aware of.
It shouldn’t be long now.
A movement in his peripheral vision caught the man by surprise. He slowed the RV to a bumpy crawl and reached for the flashlight by his side. He flicked on the beam and aimed it out the open, driver’s side window into the pine woodlands to his left. In the faint light of the jaundiced quarter moon, yellow-green pulses twinkled intermittently above fields of ghostly, waist-high grass.
Photinus pyralis, the man’s brain ticked off mechanically. Luciferace bioluminescence.
The devil’s glow.
He pressed on, edging the RV around the only curve he’d encountered on the endless stretch of road. In the distance ahead, a faint yellow light stabbed at the blackness with the steady, rhythmic pace of a seasoned serial killer.
The corners of the driver’s lips curled upward.
The prospect of civilization and a hot meal ahead sent the man’s foot pressing on the gas pedal more forcefully than he’d intended. The engine gunned. The RV lurched forward, then slammed to a halt as if it had hit a brick wall.
An eerie screech rang out in the darkness as the man’s skull smacked against the windshield with a sickening thunk.
The force of the impact flung him back against his seat.
He opened his eyes. A warm, metallic taste trickled onto his tongue. As he sampled it, he noticed the cracked windshield had shattered into countless tiny squares held together like a spider’s web.
Benedictus, 1903. Cellulose Nitrate. Mistake ….
The headlight sputtered out, leaving only blackness in its wake. Straining to see, the man reached for the flashlight which had fallen to the floorboard. He grabbed it, sat up, and flashed the beam out the side window.
Two glowing, red eyes stared back at him from the gloom.
Electric panic seared the man’s spine. His rational mind scrambled. Caught in the slow-motion horror of a bad dream, he fumbled for the hand crank to roll up the window. As his fingers gripped the handle, a sharp, exquisite pain bit into his left shoulder. His eyes cinched closed. Red and white stars danced inside his brain.
As the agony and darkness consumed him, the man’s last thought kept replaying in his mind, over and over, like a skipping record.
… mistake … mistake … mistake ….