Savannah pulled up to the old service station. In the passenger seat, her friend Morgan sat quietly. It was odd, Savannah thought, that Morgan was dressed in renaissance garb, but her mind was sucked into her very modern phone. A pale light from the screen lit up Morgan's round face in the darkness of the vehicle. Savannah wore a mummy costume, wrapped neck to foot in gauze. Normally, girls her age used Halloween as an excuse to dress skimpy, but that would require her to wear a little less clothing than she liked on a cool night in October. Tonight was the Grimwood Halloween Festival. They were meeting up with their other friends here so they could all arrive together as usual. It was to Savannah's dismay that the meeting place happened to be the old Grabit Quick.
Just as Savannah had expected, the parking lot was as dead and silent as a graveyard. Savannah looked to see if Morgan shared her apprehension about the rundown place, but Morgan seemed deeply immersed in whatever she was reading on her phone. Savannah sighed and looked out the window.
Inside the store, Savannah could just make out the regular night attendant Jessup's grimy dark hair and slim back, clad in the usual pale blue coverall uniform as he rearranged the soda cooler. As though some freaky sixth sense warned him someone was watching, he craned his neck to spare her a cold glare. Gaunt and pallor, he always gave her the creeps. She shifted uneasily in her seat.
The gas station's tarnished, cracked sign blinked dimly. The store wasn't much more than a prop these days. The strange attendant didn't really reel in the business, but it would be going down regardless. The two gas pumps in front were so rarely used, the nozzles were rusting. Once upon a time, full service stations were a thing and the Gasit Quick had been one of the busiest. The very car that Savannah drove now, an old Ford Tempo, had been one of many to frequent the place when it belonged to her sister, Maggie.
Maggie, with her perfect A's and reveled scholarship, had got a new car for graduation two years ago. Savannah inherited the Tempo. The Tempo, with its blue paint was already beginning to fade, frequented Shell now. Nobody used the Gasit Quick anymore. People preferred updated pumps they could slip their debt cards inside. They were in too much of a rush these days to bother with waiting while they got their oil and spark plugs checked each time they filled up on gas. Also, there was the stories. . . .
Savannah switched the motor off. Moonlight peeked through clouds and played tricks on the shadows of the parking lot. For a second, she could have sworn that was blood near the store door, but it couldn't be. It was just the eerie moonlight. There was no sign of what she was actually looking for -- their friend Monica's car. There wasn't a single car was in the parking lot aside from her own. She looked in the rearview mirror and saw no headlights on the streets. In fact, there wasn't a sign of life anywhere except creepy old Jessup.
She tried to busy herself by pulling her long blonde hair back into a ponytail, then checked to make sure she had her wallet, but it was no use. Impatience crept on her fast. She'd rather not be here longer than possible. It gave her goosebumps. People talked about this place. Eight out of ten Grimwood residents would say the place is haunted. That's the way little towns are, however. Something is always haunted in places like Grimwood.
"You're sure they're here?" she said to Morgan.
Unlike Savannah, Morgan didn't have any fear about being there at all. Savannah wasn't surprised. Morgan didn't believe in hauntings or ghosts. She didn't believe in fortune cookies or that breaking a mirror was bad luck either. There's a scientific reason for every occurrence, she always insisted. Fortune cookies were designed so that the little message would pacify anyone that happened to get it. People who broke mirrors -- if they even got bad luck at all -- psyched themselves out so much about bad luck that they actually caused it themselves. Hauntings and ghost were just something people made up for cheap thrills.
Savannah viewed things much differently. She watched the show A Haunting religiously, and it always freaked her out. She still harbored a slight fear of the dark, and believed breaking mirrors would cause seven years of bad luck. Eyes twisted in worry, she waited for Hannah's answer, hoping they'd made a mistake.
"Yeah," Morgan said simply, still staring down at her phone, her shoulder-length black hair hiding her face. "It's what the text said."
She pushed some buttons, then held up her phone to show Savannah the chat screen. The top said Mon -- which was what they called Monica -- and her last message said, "I'm here at the old Gasit Quick, hurry."
Morgan had replied, "On our way."
Savannah blew out a frustrated breath, then tried to change subjects. "What have you been reading anyway?"
"Just this article on Cracked dot com of reasons why a zombie apocalypse couldn't happen. The author makes some very interesting speculations." The curious thing about Morgan is, she doesn't believe in the supernatural, but she never stops researching it.
"Well, let's hope there never is one, because I will be useless," Savannah said, her voice shaky. This place was getting to her. She was itching to just drive off. "How long has it been?"
"Two minutes," Morgan said. It felt more like thirty minutes to Savannah.
She thought a moment. "Five minutes," she finally resolved. "We'll wait five more minutes, then we're going without them."
She crossed her arms, resolved in her decision. Her eyes swept the parking lot once more, then she gasped loudly when she looked inside the Grabit Quick. Jessup had turned around and his state shocked Savannah. Dark maroon smeared his front and couldn't be mistaken. It was blood.
"Do you see-" Morgan started, but Savannah didn't have to hear the rest, because she definitely saw it. It was written all over her face. This time, it wasn't a moon-trick. The girls perked up in their seats as he cut the lights inside the store, letting the darkness swallow them all whole.
Then out of the thick blackness, Monica's small face and hand smacked against the driver's side window. Her mouth wide, blood dripping from it, smearing on the glass. As both girls stared in horror, the car shook forward as if hit with something heavy in the back. Savannah startled anew and looked at her back window. Indeed it had been something large. Her friend Ronnie, popular on the football team for his girth, lay across her trunk, his face on her back window, just as gory as Monica's.
"Help!" he begged in a weak, hoarse voice.
"He's coming!" shrieked Monica.
YOU ARE READING
In friendship, they are linked. In eternal friendship, they will suffer. When a group of popular high school students decide to get matching henna tattoos at the Grimwood Halloween Festival, they had no idea what fate had in store for them. It was j...