Marcus Davis drove down a patch a road that seemed too long. Audrey had told him that Harmony County was a small place and yet since passing through the strange fog it appeared as if they been driving forever. His junior partner had sat quietly in the passenger seat ever since they’d ran with their tails between their legs. Marcus still couldn’t figure out what the hell was in that fog. The howl the creature had made would haunt him for a long time. For the first time, he started to regret helping his partner.
“Audrey,” he said, “We how long before we the town?”
Staring straight ahead, she said nothing.
“Audrey, you okay?” When she didn’t respond the second time, he touched her on the shoulder. “Hey partner.”
She shrunk away from his touch, still silent.
He pulled the Saturn to the side of the road. The car’s headlights revealed an old tilted mailbox not far from where he’d parked. A red lever on the side of the box was tilted up in the outgoing selection forever waiting for the postal service to make a pickup. Growing up the side of the rotting wood post, overgrown weeds and vines grabbled for domination of the mailbox. Marcus just barely made out the name written on the side of the box, MILLER.
He looked at Audrey and regarded her with concern. He forgot sometime just how young she was. Only twenty-two, she has yet to see much of the violence and misery the world had to offer. Marcus himself had seen much and until tonight, he thought he had seen it all. Still, just because he could not explain what happened, it wasn’t enough to have him question his own sanity. But he couldn’t say the same about his partner. Her youth and inexperience couldn’t protect her mind from all the places her mind could take him.
He gently grabbed her shoulder. When she tried to pull away, he held her in place. “It’s time for a reality pill, Audrey.”
Her lost expression fell on his strong gaze. “What?”
“I don’t know what’s going on in that head of yours right now, but what I do know is that I don’t like it.”
She gave him a questioning glance.
“There’s no such thing as monsters. Whatever was in that fog was an animal. I grant you it was a big one, but it was only an animal.” Some of the fear left her face. He felt her body relax under his touch. “You get that, right?”
“An animal,” she whispered.
“That’s right. I know it’s Halloween, but this ain’t the dark ages,” he said then laughed.
Her head started bobbing up and down. “You’re right, you’re right. I’m sorry, I’m not asking much like a Special Agent am I?”
“You’re doing fine. Believe it or not, I was spooked too,” he said smiling, then he added, “If you tell anyone I was scare, I’ll make sure you’re transferred to Alaska.”
She laughed. “It’ll be our secret.”
He pointed to the mailbox. “That says Miller over there. Does that tell you how far we are from town?”
Her grin faded away and her eyes began dancing in their sockets. “That’s just it, Marcus. We should have been town a long time ago.”
“Maybe I made a wrong turn somewhere.”
“You didn’t. There’s only one road leading into Harmony County,” she explained. “I can’t wrap my mind around what is happening tonight.”
He squeezed her shoulder. “There’s nothing happening,” he said softly. “We just got turned around, okay?”
She didn’t look convinced but at least she lost the thousand-yard stare. He looked at the mailbox again.
“You think the Miller’s will let us use their phone?” Neither his nor her cell phones had been functioning right since they landed in Michigan. He figured there might be some weird weather phenomenon causing the problem. The fog at the edge of town only supported his thinking.
“No one has lived on that farm in years.”
“What happened to the Millers?”
“No one really knows. Well, no one that’s willing to talk about it. There are plenty of rumors, of course but nothing that can be proven. One day they were just gone.”
“Don’t tell me, the Millers were witches?” he joked. When she didn’t laugh, he flinched. “Oh come on, really? Witches?”
“Is there a difference?”
She frowned, embarrassed. “Witches are those who practice magic but are not connection to any form of religion or spiritual rights. Wicca is a religion that many follow around the world.”
“You seem pretty knowledgeable on the subject.”
“I took an online course on the subject.” Audrey had taken all her college courses online, never taking a step inside the halls of a physical university.
“And what do you believe really happened to the Millers?”
“They probably retired and moved to Florida,” she said grinning again.
Though but agents were trying to keep things light between them, both were harboring some deep-seated worries. Though, Marcus had a feeling his were grounded in reality. Before taking Audrey on as a partner, he went over her file, though highly intelligent, her introverted personality tended to keep from opening up to others. He known that but still took her on, figuring that she’d one day open up to him. Still, after months of working together, the only real thing he knew about his partner was that her mother was dead and her father was the sheriff of Harmony County. Now to find out, she took classes on witchcraft, he started to worry he made a mistake in taking her on.
“Ready to go home, Audrey?”
She nodded solemnly. “I think so,” she said staring off toward the darkness horizon in the direction of the farmhouse. “It’s just this place holds so many memories. Some that I’ve tried to forget.”
“You and your father get along?”
“Honestly, I haven’t spoke to him since I left for the academy. He’s been leaving messages and sending me letters, but I haven’t responded to any of them.”
Marcus decided not to ask any more questions, he was trending on family troubles. When she was ready to talk about it without his nudging, he’ll ask more questions then. The car pulled away from the side of the road and the tilted mailbox was swallowed away by darkness. They drove in silence for another five minutes when caught in the headlights, the same mailbox appeared just ahead.
“What the hell?” The car had been driving in a straight line. What Marcus was seeing was impossible. “Are there more than one Millers farms in town?” It had to be any other explanation would border on insanity.
Audrey’s head shook side-to-side. “No.”
Marcus pressed his foot down on the pedal accelerating past the mailbox. Five minutes later, the Millers box came up again in the headlights. He and Audrey exchanged questioning glances but said nothing. His foot was all the way down on the pedal now. The car rocketed down the road, twice more they passed the same mailbox, but on the third time around something darted in front of the box and out into the road directly in the path of the Saturn.
Marcus slammed bot feet on the brakes. The car fishtailed, the smell of burnt rubbed filled his nostrils. Audrey screamed and perhaps he did to, but he wasn’t sure. The Saturn stopped feet away from a naked man doubled over in the middle of the road. The scene reminder Marcus of when the Terminator first appeared in present day from his time travel, except this man wasn’t muscle bounded, he was flabby with age, had gray hair and had red blotches all over his body.
Audrey jumped out of the car and raced to the man before Marcus could stop her. She knelt beside the man and started talking to him as if she knew him. It dawned on Marcus that perhaps she did, she probably knew everyone in town. Before joining the pair, he went to the back of the car, opened one of his luggage bags. He pulled out a wool blanket. Marcus brought it expecting a cold Michigan winter but was surprised by the heat. Taking the blanket to the man, he covered him up. Audrey helped him stand upright.
“You know who he is?” Marcus asked.
“I do,” she said offering nothing more.
Marcus stared into the man’s brown eyes and for a brief moment, he thought he seen something swimming behind them.
“Who is he?”
The man weakly answered himself, “My name… is Dr. Milburn.”