By: Ann McCune
A small hoop containing a horsehair mesh, or a similar construction of string or yarn, decorated with feathers and beads, believed to give its owner good dreams. Dreamcatchers were originally made by Native Americans.
“Was that another moving truck?” I asked, tightening down the drain plug on the oil pan of Billy’s truck before pushing my way out from under it. I sat up and watched the semi-truck amble up the mountain towards the Freeman Mansion.
“Looks like it.” Billy offered me a hand to help me up.
“I can manage. I wouldn’t want you to mess up your manicure.” I showed him my oil-covered hands and braced my legs under myself before standing.
“Liz, when are you going to learn to not stick your hand in the oil as it comes out?” He handed me a rag, and I wiped the black sludge off.
“Someday soon, I hope.” I put the rag in the trashcan, took a bottle of oil off the shelf, uncapped it, and threw the lid at Billy.
“Hey, watch it! I just got this shirt.” He pulled it away from his chest to make sure he didn’t get any oil on it.
“How was Denver?” I tipped the bottle into the opening of the oil reservoir and watched the golden liquid leave the bottle.
“Same old, same old. Played so much Call of Duty with my cousins I think I need to start wearing glasses for eyestrain. What did you do?”
“Worked, did homework, tried to figure out what kind of community service I want to do this summer.”
“If it wasn’t for me you would never have any fun, admit it.”
“Oh, Billy the God of Fun. I pledge my allegiance to you,” I said, deadpan. “What would we have done if you stayed here for spring break?” He hesitated for a second while I took the empty bottle of oil off the reservoir and threw it in the trash. “Let me guess, play Call of Duty until we passed out from exhaustion?”
“We could have taken the snow machines out, it would have been fun.” He stuck his hands in the pocket of his jeans.
“The weather was crap besides I like doing homework.” I leaned over the engine of the truck, pulled the dipstick out, cleaned it, then shoved it back into the hole.
“Only because you want to get into the Air Force Academy. Who is that?”
In my hurry to see who he was talking about I pulled the dipstick out too quickly and flung a line of oil across my face. “Crap,” I yelled a little too loudly and started to look for another rag.
“Just look.” Billy didn’t even turn around to see why I was complaining.
I looked out the windows of the garage door and saw a brand-new black suburban parked at the fuel pumps outside. With its tinted windows it reminded me of an FBI vehicle.
“It’s a little early for tourists. The road through the Park isn’t open yet.” I reached for another rag but stopped when the back door opened, and a guy got out to look around. He was tall and beefy, maybe a football player. His hair was light brown and cut short. His jeans hung low on his hips, and I saw a white T-shirt under his black leather jacket. He looked like he should have been in an Abercrombie and Fitch advertisement, not standing at the gas pumps in my little town. He pulled the jacket closer around him, as if he were cold. He turned toward us, and my breath caught. He was gorgeous. He looked to be about my age with a wide strong jaw smooth as a fender with a high-gloss paint job. His nose was a little short and a little wide. His lips made me lick my own in anticipation of how they would feel pressed against mine; they looked soft and pink. I wanted to know what color his eyes were, but it was impossible to tell behind his aviator sunglasses.
He took a step closer to the garage door and bent to look inside. He gave us a little wave, and I waved back then exhaled, remembering to breathe. He wiped his hand down his face, and I remembered I had oil all over mine from the darn dipstick. I felt my cheeks redden and I turned away to wipe the oil off my face.
“What was that about?” Billy asked, looking from me to the guy. “Why are you blushing?”
“I forgot I had oil on my face. I think he’s laughing at me.” I turned back around and watched him move to the far side of the SUV.
“No, he wasn’t laughing, but I am. I don’t think I have ever seen you blush before.” Billy laughed and walked over to me. “Are you done?”
“With what? Oh, your truck. Yeah, your oil has been changed. Pay up.” I shut the hood and held my hand out to Billy, waiting for my payment. I wanted to look over my shoulder at the guy with the suburban, but I didn’t need any more grief from Billy.
Billy groaned but handed over the twenty dollars I charged my friends to change their oil. “I wonder if they are the people moving into the Freeman Mansion.” I put the money in the pocket of my coveralls and watched as the guy got back in the suburban and pulled onto the road going the same way as the moving trucks had.
“I wouldn’t be surprised, it’s an expensive vehicle for anyone around here, but I bet they are just passing through. He doesn’t look like he belongs in the mountains.” Billy opened the door to his truck. “Do you want me to stick around and keep you company?”
“No, I’ve got homework to do, and you probably do too. Our history paper is due tomorrow.” I went over to the garage door opener.
“I know, I have it halfway done. I wasn’t a total slacker over break.” He stood, waiting to get in his truck.
“See you tomorrow.” I hit the button to open the garage door.
“Yeah, see you then.” Billy jumped into his truck—he had to jump as it was lifted so high it was the only way he could get in—and fired it up.
An icy wind made me shiver as it blew snow into the garage. Billy pulled the truck out slowly, being careful to clear the door without doing any damage. I pushed the button to lower the door and went to my locker to take my coveralls off. I pulled the twenty out and went into the store. Sundays during mud season were the slowest days at the Twisted Pine Gas N’Go, but I loved it. I could get a lot of homework done, or work on my friends’ cars without being disturbed.
At five, I flipped the closed sign on the store and locked up. I walked around the side of the building as snowflakes the size of half dollars swirled around me in the breeze. It was a typical early April storm in the Rocky Mountains, and I was over it. I was ready for warm weather and blue skies.
When I got to the Jeep Wrangler my dad surprised me with on my sixteenth birthday, I was freezing. I wished I would have brought my gloves inside with me instead of leaving them on the passenger seat. I got in and started it up, put my icy gloves on, and pulled my ice scraper off the floor. I cranked up the heat and got out to clean the snow and ice off the windshield. Once my windows were clear, and I got back in, and the heater was blowing warm air. I took my gloves off before putting my seat belt on then pulled out of the parking lot and drove home.
I lived ten miles from the center of Twisted Pines, on the side of Mt. Ersa. My parents’ house was typical for the area before the Rocky Mountain National Park opened and vacation rentals started to take over. It was modest, with three bedrooms and two and a half baths. It had one of the best views of Freeman Lake and the town of Twisted Pines at its shores. I loved our house but winding my way up the side of the mountain to get home in the winter often made me wish we would move.
I drove slowly around one of the hairpin turns, covered in ice and snow, when I saw an animal standing in the middle of the road. I hit the brakes hard and the ABS took over making a grinding noise, but not slowing me down. Unfortunately, the moose in front of me had the opposite problem, he didn’t want to move. My dad’s voice filtered through my thoughts. Don’t swerve to miss an animal, it’s better to hit it than to flip.
The moose’s head swung around, and our eyes locked for a split second before I hit him broadside. Time slowed down. He flipped up, landing on the hood then sliding toward me. The weight of the twelve-hundred-pound moose made the metal on the hood groan and deform in protest but didn’t slow down his momentum. His antlers slammed into the windshield, shattering it, and came toward me. I put my hands up to protect my face, but it was too late. His antler hit me in the middle of my forehead and I jerked back, some people thought antlers were art, I always thought of them as a weapon. I stomped harder on the brakes, and we finally came to a stop.
He started thrashing his head around, and grunting in a deep baritone, trying to free himself. The hole in the windshield was getting bigger and I shrank back in my seat trying to keep my face as far from the weapon as possible. I’m not sure how, but one second, the antler was a foot from my face, and in the next instant it hit me, hard, across the face. Fireworks exploded before my eyes, a sharp pain blossomed across my face, and I felt blood gushing from a cut near my hairline. I needed to get out of the car. I took my foot off the clutch, stalling the Jeep, and groped for the door handle while trying not to get hit in the head again.
I pulled the handle, and the door opened. I tried to squeeze out, but I was stuck. I couldn’t move, and the moose was slowly making a bigger and bigger hole in the windshield. I looked down and realized I still had my seatbelt on. I reached for the buckle and fumbled with the button, my hands shaking so badly I couldn’t keep pressure on the button to release myself. I flexed my hand, took a breath, tried not to think about the moose still struggling to free itself, and pushed the button, finally releasing myself from the seat. I slid out as quickly as I could, while trying to stay away from the antlers that were trying to kill me, when something, most likely the antler, hit me on the side of the head and everything went black.
I was walking around Billy’s house. It was full of people. He must be having a party, because all my friends were there having a good time, I could smell keg beer, and the sour smell of marijuana. I needed to find Billy, but I couldn’t remember why. I went through the kitchen and the living room without finding him. People were staring at me like I had something on my face or I was naked. I looked down and let out a sigh of relief, I had on my usual jeans and hoodie. They were dirty though, caked with something dark, almost rust in color, why would I wear dirty clothes to a party? Yes, I was a tomboy, but even I made sure to wear clean clothes.
I walked upstairs, weaving my way around people, most of them looked at me then whispered to their friend. Even the couples making out stopped what they were doing to gawk at me. When I reached the top of the stairs, I was back in the kitchen. I shook my head confused, how was I back in the kitchen if I had just come up the stairs?
“Liz,” I heard Billy yell from somewhere deeper in the house.
“Billy, where are you?” I yelled back, trying to run through the house, but everyone was standing in the way. I zigzagged around them until I broke free from the crowd and yelled for Billy again.
“Liz,” he bellowed.
I went to the coat closet under the stairs and pulled the door open. The bare bulb light was on and swaying slightly, causing the light to bounce off the walls in the claustrophobic space. I didn’t know if it was the light or the small space, but my stomach rolled and I resisted the urge to throw up. Billy was huddled in the corner with his face buried in his knees. “Billy are you alright?” I bent down in front of him and put my hand on his head.
Moving almost too fast for me to see, Billy grabbed one of my hands and pulled me into the closet while the door slammed closed, locking me in with him. He looked up at me, and I realized it wasn’t Billy. Its face was long and hollow, its skin sucked tight to the bones of its face like it was starved. Where its nose should have been, was smooth skin with two slits to breathe through. Where its eyes should have been, were black unseeing holes. I felt like if I looked at them too long they would suck me into their abyss, and I would never escape.
I screamed and tried to pull my arm out of its grip, but it only squeezed harder. I made a fist with my free hand and punched it in the face with every ounce of strength I had. Instead of hurting it and forcing it to let me go, my hand bounced off as if I punched a rubber ball. The monster grabbed my free hand and laughed. I was trapped.
“You can’t get away now that I found you, Martröð Veiðimaður,” its dry croaking voice said, flashing razor-sharp teeth at me.
“Let me go,” I said as tears started to fall down my face. I wanted to kick it, punch it, stab its eyes—even though it had none—but it had my hands in a vicelike grip. It pulled me to the floor and I could not get my legs underneath me to stand. It started to pull me closer to its mouth. When my face was a few inches away, it opened its mouth, giving me an up-close look at its teeth. I screamed again and closed my eyes. How was I going to survive this monster?
Someone pounded on the door startling the monster. I opened my eyes as it loosened its grip, and I pulled my arms away from it and pushed myself back against the door, ready to kick it if it came at me again. “Help.” I screamed.
“Watch out I’m going to blow the door open,” a male voice I didn’t recognize called.
“I have nowhere else to go. I’m on the floor in front of the door and its coming for me again.” I braced my hands on the floor, on either side of me, forcing them to take my weight, so I could kick the monster if it came within range.
“He will not save you, Veiðimaður, you are mine.” The monster stood; it was impossibly tall and skinny, and Billy’s normal T-shirt and jeans were almost falling off its body. It started to walk towards me and I prepared myself to kick it in the knees; it was the only sensitive part I would reach from the floor. I didn’t know what scared me more, its unseeing eyes or its sharp teeth. Its arms came down to grab me, and I kicked it hard forcing it to back up a step. The next instant, the door exploded inward, showering me with chunks of wood and splinters.
When I opened my eyes, a hand was being extended down to me. I followed it up his arm to his shoulder, then settled on the guy’s face. It was the guy from the gas station in the suburban. Remembering the monster trying to kill me, I tore my gaze away and looked for the monster. It was in a ball on the floor with large chunks of wood sticking out of his back. “You will not escape me forever. I know what you are,” said the monster, looking up at with me with a smile that made me shiver.
Still crying, I took my savior’s hand and he helped me to my feet. I stepped over what was left of the door, remembering I was still in Billy’s house. “Take her,” my savior said, his voice was deeper than I expected.
He gently pushed me toward a woman with long blonde hair pulled back in a high ponytail. She wore a skintight, black, long-sleeved jump suit with a utility belt. She had piercing blue eyes, and her flawless complexion made her look like she should be a model for Covergirl.
She put her hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes. “You’re dreaming. You have to wake up or you’re going to die.”
What? I’m dreaming? I thought to myself. I didn’t remember going to bed. What had I been doing before the party? I was in my Jeep driving home from work.
“I’m not dreaming, I’m unconscious.” This was the most bizarre dream I had ever had.
“Crap,” the woman said, taking me by the hand and leading me into the corner of the room. “Base, this is Heather, do you copy?” she asked, talking into a mic on her wrist. She went quiet for a minute. “We have an unconscious civilian trapped by a mare.” Turning to me, she asked, “Do you know where you are?”
“I’m on County Road 35 just past the McFisk place. I hit a moose.”
“Did you copy that base?” She waited again. She looked at me and smiled. “Okay, paramedics and the sheriff are on their way. Now, we just have to keep you safe until they get there.”
A loud thud pulled my attention to the closet I had been trapped in. A second later, an ear-splitting scream erupted from the room, and I put my fingers in my ears to block it out.
I moved to get closer to the closet, wanting to make sure the guy who saved me was okay, but Heather put her arm up, blocking my way before I could get past her.
“Where are you going?” she asked, putting her other hand on her hip.
“I want to make sure your friend is alright.” I looked at her then the closet.
“He’s fine. The scream you heard was the mare dying. He will be out in a second.”
True to her word the guy came out of the closet covered in a gel-like substance, reminding me of the slime that covers fish, only it was neon green. “What’s all over him?”
“It’s what’s left of the mare he killed. Don’t get too close, it smells horrible.”
The guy walked over to us looking concerned. “Why is she still here? Didn’t you tell her to wake up?” he asked, wiping the slime off his face with his hand. Even covered with slime, he was still the best-looking guy I had seen up close in my life. I looked into his eyes, they were the palest blue, like ice when it freezes smooth in a pond.
“She was in a car accident and was knocked unconscious. I notified base, help is on the way.”
“This is the most messed up dream I have ever I had,” I heard myself saying, unable to take my eyes off the guy.
“Don’t worry, princess, you won’t remember a thing.” He smiled, showing off his dimples and straight, white teeth.
“Don’t call me princess.” I was anything but a princess, much to my mother’s dismay.
“Then what should I call you?” He took a step closer.
“Elizabeth, my friends call me Liz.” My cheeks started to burn but I didn’t back down. “What do you go by? Dickhead?”
“Only my friends get to call me Dickhead. You can call me Shawn.” He took another step closer and I could smell the slime dripping off him. Heather was right, the smell was somewhere between day-old fish guts, and a bloated dead cow right after it popped.
I tried to take a step back to find some clean air, but they had me in the corner and I ran into the wall. With nowhere to go, I took a breath and my stomach revolted. I bent over, grabbed my knees, and threw up everything in my stomach. What a nightmare, first I’m attacked by a monster then I throw up on the shoes of the hottest guy I had ever seen. Wait, I’m dreaming, how could I throw up in my dream?
“Way to go, Dickhead.” Heather pulled my hair out of my face. “Now her car is going to be covered in vomit.”
“Not the Jeep,” I murmured, feeling dizzy after emptying my stomach.
“It is probably totaled if she hit a moose,” Shawn said.
I tried to focus on him, but I couldn’t. My head was spinning, and I couldn’t make it stop long enough to see him clearly.
“They’re waking her up,” I heard Heather say as I closed my eyes hoping the spinning would stop. I forced myself to open my eyes, but my eyelids felt like they weighed as much as a bulldozer. “What’s happening to me?”
“Don’t worry, princess, they’re waking you up. You won’t remember any of this.”
I tried to say, don’t call me princess, but darkness enveloped me, and I was floating away.
© 2018 Ann McCune