I didn’t want to say anything to Danny. Claire, you can be such a backseat driver, he had told me one night after rear-ending his Volkswagen Cabriolet into the back of a tractor trailer on I-81. So, I say nothing. Even after starting to suspect the Waze GPS system was routing us off-course, I stay close-lipped.
Normally the drive from our tiny town in the Poconos to a different tiny town in the Poconos would only take us twenty minutes. But as we drove deeper into the woods, away from familiar roads and guideposts, it was clear something was wrong.
“Huh, I don't know why this is taking so long,” he admits aloud. “They must be re-routing us around traffic.”
“I guess so!” I say, quietly relishing in my own tiny victory.
The night creeps up on us almost as quickly as street lights and the signs of civilization disappear in our rear view window.
“Why don't I try re-entering the address,” I finally ask. “Maybe we put it in wrong.”
“You don't trust that I can type in an address?”
Honestly? Yes. I think.
“Fine,” he relinquishes.
I pick up the small, palm-sized Android and try to clear the address.
The app shakes and refuses the edit.
I try again.
Again, the app refuses to acknowledge my command--like a petulant child.
“It's not working.”
Turn left, the GPS voice commands in a gravelly tone different than the saccharine woman’s voice that normally directs us to places like the mall or my ophthalmologist's office.
Danny turns left because “what the fuck else am I supposed to do, Claire?”
We continue to follow the route until the road is so dark, so empty, and so foreign that Danny gives up.
“You know what, let’s just pull over and ask for directions,” he surrenders. “Look, there's a house with its light on right through that clearing.”
You have arrived at your destination, the murky voice echos through the car.
In my gut, I know this idea sounds dumb, but one time Danny told me I could be too judgemental--so I agree.
As Danny pulls closer, we see several parked, empty cars dotting the side of the road.
“Great, they must be having a party or something,” he sleuths.
But there is no sound as we walk up the driveway to the house. No laughter. No music. No sign of life anywhere.
I hear every piece of gravel beneath my feet. I hear my heart begin to beat with each step we take closer to the front porch. Danny walks ahead of me in long, confident strides.
He stops at the front porch. I sidle up beside him.
Go into your destination, his smartphone calls out from his pants pocket.
“Danny, I think we should just turn back,” I stammer. My body is sweating but also covered in goosebumps.
Just as I reach to grab his hand, a loud BANG screams out from the side of a house--like a heavy barn door being swung open violently.
I jolt and cling to Danny.
“Ouch!” He whines. “Claire your nails are like daggers!”
I unwrap my arms around him and order him to leave with me.
“It's probably just like a dog or something,” he assumes aloud. I watch him slowly start to climb the stairs to the front door. I hesitantly follow.
SHRIEK! WHOOSH! THUD!
A dark, quick shadow flies past me as I watch Danny’s body hit the splintered wood porch. I can't tell what, or who, has hit him - but he reels in pain on the floor. He clutches his side and screams in pain. I rush to his side to see a hole, the size of a grapefruit, torn through his hip.
I collapse and scream. I scream loud. I scream curse words.
“Claire!” He gasps as I cradle his head. He is shaking and bleeding out. “Can you…”
“Can I what?” I stammer.
“Can I what!?” I scream.
“Claire, I'm dying can you not be so shrill?”
In that moment, I am not sure what comes over me. I stare into his eyes, slowly shutting, and I reach into his pocket.
And just before he can finish saying Nice with one of his last breaths, I grab the car keys from his pocket. I remove his resting head from my lap. I stand up. And I run. I run from him. From the house. From the shadowy figure that brought us there. I fly faster than I thought possible.
I get into driver’s seat and I pull away from the driveway. Once I feel far enough from Danny, the house, from everything--I pull up Google Maps.
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