(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.)
John’s hands divorced his mind as they tossed their few temporary belongings into the two duffel bags they’d stolen from the house. They would make their exodus the second the sun was swallowed by the horizon. They’d have to find a new car, of course. But how, John had no idea. He may not have known who he was, but he was fairly certain his latent memories didn’t include the ability to hotwire cars.
They would also need to swipe a license plate from another vehicle and put it on their own. He hoped that would keep them off the radar until he could figure out how to get another vehicle. John scanned the room, hoping to see a knife or something he could use as a screwdriver to remove the plates.
Finding nothing, he collapsed on the bed, acutely aware that his looming fate now rested in the tiny hands of a little girl.
Abigail had agreed to moving the car without blinking, though John suspected she had zero driving experience. Still, he figured, it wasn’t too hard to drive a few hundred feet. Parking, on the other hand, could present a bit of a problem. He imagined her crashing the car and inviting the attention of nearby police.
Part of him believed she’d be better off in the custody of the cops anyway. They would be able to help her; find her a proper home; keep her away from the walking death he obviously was.
Certainly she could share no future with him, especially not in this condition. Even if his life were entirely normal, why on Earth would he take in a child he hardly knew?
John started to circle the same question he’d been asking himself since their flight from the house the night before. Why hadn’t he just left the girl to be found by police? At the time, he’d not thought it through. Abigail was in need and he was too. He couldn’t trust that he wouldn’t fade to black the second more memories materialized. He wondered if he was being selfish to drag her along into the unknown horrors awaiting him.
He was a man without a past. The police were hunting him and at least one person had buried him alive, at least that seemed to be the case. Though he couldn’t discount the thought that seemed to constantly throb beneath all others – what if he was one of the undead?
The possibilities were endless and the implausibility of it all kept him sprawled on the bed instead of pacing the floor.
Perhaps it would be best if the police picked the girl up, he soothed himself for the hundredth time.
Still, there was something else.
There was that bridge between them, drawing them together during their first brief touch, and then again this morning when she sent one of his memories sailing straight back at and inside him. There was something bigger than the two of them at work, something that held him in place while silently instructing her to deliver the memory.
Something was guiding them, and John knew it as sure as he knew that fire’s hot and water’s wet. It didn’t have to make sense, there was understanding in the deepest recesses of his reptilian brain, scattered pieces of a puzzle strewn across a table. Some face up and some face down, but all his to piece together.
To understand how the pieces fit, he needed to see them all in one place. To put the puzzle of his life together, he needed Abigail.
Abigail craned her neck and narrowed her eyes into the side mirror. No matter how much she wanted to deny it, the cop was pulling her over.
She pressed her foot gingerly on the brake, but it wasn’t gentle enough. The car bucked forward then shuddered to a stop at the lip of the right lane.
Abigail kept her eyes fastened on the mirror but couldn’t see into the cop’s front window.
She tasted the familiar copper adrenaline in her throat as her mind spit a dozen different scenarios of flight — none remotely realistic, especially considering she lacked even a basic set of driving skills, let alone the ability to evade a police car in a high speed pursuit.
The keys in the ignition jiggled in time to the engine’s purr, both against the backbeat of her foot tapping nervously against the floorboard.
The cop was still in his car.
Was it supposed to take this long?
Suddenly, as if responding to her thought, the cop’s voice boomed over the speakers atop his light bar.
“Put your hands where I can see them and step out of the vehicle!”
Abigail was frozen, swallowed by the ambiguity of adult procedure.
The cop issued his command a second time, his voice deep, cold, emotionless. And authoritative.
Abigail released a tiny slip of a shriek as her hands fumbled with the door handle, unable to open it. Panic rose like a tide in her throat as the realization that she might be shot for not obeying the cop became as real as the bruised violet sky hazing through the smear of the windshield.
“Please don’t shoot!” she cried out, pulling down her hood to show she was merely a child.
“Hands in the air, step out of the car,” the voice echoed.
Abigail’s hands found the lock, unlocked it and opened the door slowly.
“Hands up, face away from me.”
Abigail obeyed, the world slowing to a few frames per second around her. She could feel the eyes of strangers in cars as they passed by in the middle and far lanes. She and the cop had caused the right lane traffic to stop cold.
“Walk backwards to the sound of my voice, keep your hands in the air,” the voice commanded.
Gravel and debris bit into her bare feet as she took a single tentative step back. All those eyes on them, each driver and passenger craning to get a glimpse, if only a moment, of the drama unfolding.
“Stop,” the voice said, “down on your knees.”
Abigail slowly descended to her knees, quivering like the last leaf clinging to a tree in the fall. She could feel the cop’s glare on her as he stepped from his car and started his approach. Tears streaked down her face, the salt stinging her lips.
“Hands out, palms up,” the cop said.
Abigail was confused. Why was he shouting at her? She was just a child, couldn’t he see that? She desperately wanted to reel around to show that she was not whatever villain he thought her to be. To do so, she knew, would invite him to shoot her dead on the spot.
Traffic was crawling and she could hear the angry horns from frustrated drivers, stuck a block back without a view of the action.
“Cross your legs at the ankles,” the cop said.
The officer’s instructions confused Abigail as the traffic, the eyes of the drivers and the cop’s gun all gathered velocity to meet the real time of the world around her.
Instead of obeying, Abigail tossed the dice, turned around, and asked the cop to repeat himself.
There he stood, a tall, lanky cop, swimming in his dark green uniform, most of his face hidden behind large shades and an even larger mustache. He looked young and something about him screamed inexperience, yet his hand — and the gun it held — did not waver in the slightest, taking aim directly at the small of her back.
He paused a moment, as if he were just then realizing she was not a dangerous bad guy, but in fact, a small child. He turned his mouth and said something which she could not hear into the radio at his shoulder. Then he spoke to her. Gun still drawn.
“Who else is in the car?” he asked.
“It’s just me!” Abigail cried.
The cop said something else inaudible into his radio then moved towards her door, gun aimed at the car, quickly scanning the windows for another occupant.
“Are you okay?” the cop asked. “You can put your hands down.”
“Yes,” Abigail whispered, turning to the officer for confirmation before standing. He nodded.
“What’s your name?” the cop asked as he holstered his gun and pulled out a pad and pen.
She told the truth. Meanwhile a line of cars had built up behind the cop car, waiting to merge into the middle lane which was filled with rubberneckers, slowing to a crawl as each car begged for a ticket to the show. Abigail felt naked with so many eyes on her. She started a silent plea in her head — just get it over with, she thought, do what you need to do and put me in the car.
“A lot of people are looking for you,” the cop said, “where is he?”
“Where’s who?” Abigail asked, her eyes breaking away and falling on a lightning bolt crack in the concrete by the officer’s feet.
“The man who kidnapped you.”
“I wasn’t kidnapped,” she said, looking up as a dusty gray van idled behind the cop car, unable to merge into the middle lane to go around them.
The cop could care less about the traffic jam, his attention was fixed on Abigail and going nowhere.
“Do you know where the man is now? Do you know his name?”
Abigail wasn’t sure what to say, but forced herself to raise her chin, stare into his mirrored lenses, and continue to feign ignorance.
The van got impatient and swerved violently into the middle lane cutting off a pickup truck the color of dirty milk or old chalk. The man behind the wheel of the pickup laid on the horn causing the cop to turn around just as the van pulled up alongside them. Abigail thought she heard the hum of the passenger window as it was rolled down and…
The van stopped.
The cop barely had time to grab his gun before his head exploded in a crimson river of gore.
Abigail screamed as the gunshot echoed into the forever of her future memory. Her mind registered a face in the passenger side of the van a second behind her eyes. It was wearing a black ski mask. The side panel door rolled open in a thunderous roar. Inside she saw at least three others, dressed all in black and wearing matching masks.
One of them leaped out and grabbed Abigail’s hair, yanked her forward and tossed her into the van in one violently fast movement. Something closed tight around her mouth as a strong odor snaked into her nostrils and she slipped into an icy blackness.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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