Teen SF Writing Contest Tied for 3rd Place:Twilight Promenade

Twilight Promenade

By Brenn Haydon

          

The dirt road lead deeper and deeper into the forest of pine trees and underbrush. Ashen clouds accumulated overhead, marking the turn of late afternoon. Interrupting the stillness of the woods, Garrett Reed drove his car slowly down the back country road. His black tux looking freshly pressed as he stared nervously ahead. His date’s house lay six miles from the furthest part of town. He twiddled his thumbs on the steering wheel and glanced at the corsage that lay delicately packaged in the passenger seat.

His palms grew clammy as the wooden and worn house appeared within view behind the trees. He let out a sign of anxiousness, worrying about the prospect of meeting her father and facing his notoriously cold stare. Parking abruptly, he jumped out of the car, determined to end the suspense. Striding up the creaky porch steps, he regrettably knocked on the door with too much vigor.

A smile crept over his face when Maggie opened the door. Excitement gleamed in her eyes and she gestured him inside with a friendly unspoken hello. “Dad, he’s here! We’re going to go, don’t want to be late,” she hollered into the kitchen as a body stirred and stepped towards the doorway.

 “So you’re Garrett-eh?” her father eyed the boy as if to assess every inch of him.  Garrett felt his legs melt before offering out his hand and firmly shaking it with the father, Neal McCoy. “Nice to meet you, Sir. I assure you Maggie has good care tonight and we will be home by midnight, no later.”

 “You better, lest I remind you that I am a retired officer still licensed to carry a gun,” Neal huffed and with that he turned back towards the kitchen.

 “Bye, Dad!” Maggie responded, scrambling them both outside of the interrogation room and into the chilled air. Her blond hair was pinned off of her face and rolled into delicate curls which bounced off her shoulders. Her green dress blended with the encompassing trees.

She squinted her eyes up at the clouds, “Weatherman said it’s expected to rain. Gonna be a wet Senior Prom. Sure hope it doesn’t start until we’re inside,” she chatted, attempting to lighten the mood after the gruffness of her father.

Garrett found himself properly able to look at her and agreed, “Well I’ll say, still wanna eat at Giovi’s beforehand? …, you look really beautiful tonight,” he felt flustered as he opened her car door.

She nodded and smiled in response before getting in.

# # #

By the time they finished at the restaurant, the road was flooded with rain and Myers bridge had given way to the rushing creek. The local radio station announced that the prom had been cancelled.

“Well there goes prom! This is torrential!” Garrett shouted over the noise of the storm. The high windshield wipers snapped back and forth across the windshield vigorously. The dark of night had befallen them.

“I can’t believe it! I can hardly see anything outside. ” Maggie leaned forward, looking at the blinding storm with shock. “Just take me home Garrett, we shouldn’t be on the road.” 

The dirt road was oozing mud in the uneven divots. The car radio was only a faint murmur in comparison to the clashing of water on steel. Garrett could barely manage fifteen mile per hour in the weather. The headlights reflected off the thick drops of rain and blackness of the forest; the inky dark seemed suffocating.

“Tonight’s disappointing, but thanks for asking me, we would have had fun.” Maggie’s voice was muffled by the rain, “And thank you for dinner, really.”

“I should be thanking you for coming with me,” Garrett replied, “This is slow going, any other stations on the radio we could listen to?” 

Maggie scrolled through the channels on the dashboard radio to no avail. All stations had become silenced by the scratchy static of lost signals. Suddenly the tuner began to change the channels automatically. As if in a surge of electrical input, the radio endlessly began to scroll through the stations, and the static volume dramatically increased, almost overpowering the storm.

“Garrett! It’s changing itself!” Maggie yelled, her hands rising automatically to shelter her ears.

Garrett grabbed control of the tuner, looking away from the road, “What the! Turn it down!” Garrett tried to turn off the power, but in a splintering instant blinding light gleamed in front of them.

Shielding her eyes from the intensity, Maggie yelled, “Stop! Stop the car!”

 The car began to shake as a high vibrating sound screeched, piercing their ears! The force of the brightness overwhelmed them and it took all of Garrett’s willpower not to close his eyes as the car lunged into the enclosing white. The car screeched to a halt.

Opening her eyes, Maggie could not adjust to the sudden darkness; her ears rang pain. The dashboard lights of the car were out, and the engine no longer running. The only sound was the rain, ominously sheeting off the car. “Garrett,” she whispered regaining her senses, and exclaimed louder, “Garrett!”

His shaky voice shouted back, “Are you okay!” She felt around herself, still seemingly intact. “Yes! I am, you? What was that?” Her whole body throbbed.

 “I don’t know, but my head,” He rubbed his temples, “The light was so painful…” His voice trailed as a throbbing headache numbed his brain.

“Well let’s go” Maggie pleaded.

“Yeah, let’s.” Garrett’s headache was increasing intensity, and he turned the key to start the ignition. Only a broken hum followed.

“Garrett?” Maggie cried too afraid to process the click of the dead battery.

“I…” He started, continuing to turn the key. “The car won’t start, it is dead! It was just working, how does it just die!” He hit the steering wheel frustration. Maggie did not speak though her mind raced. “Well. what time is it?” Garrett glanced at his wrist watch. “8:45! 8:45 Maggie! How could it be so late?”

“Your watch must be broken, it was just 7:30pm.” Maggie’s hair was rising on her arms and she felt the accumulation of sweat beading on her forehead. “Garrett, I know it was 7:30, the dashboard said so, it just did when I was trying to look through the stations.”

“But, it is 8:45 now. What happened during the light flash?” Garrett eyes widened.

“Let’s just go to my house,” Maggie whined.

“How!” Garrett yelled.

 “My phone!” Maggie fished through her bag and pulled out an old cell phone, immediately putting it to her ear.  She slapped the flip phone shut. “Dead! Not a single ringtone. And Dad insisted that I take this for my safety.”

 “We gotta be less than a mile from your house, right?”

Maggie nodded in response.

Garrett continued, “Well we could just wait for someone to drive by.”

They sat in silence, listening to the quieting rain. The time dragged on in suspense. No one came.

“It’s stopped!” Maggie spoke softly, facing towards the window, “Listen.”

It was too quiet. The sudden silence was unnerving.

 “We should just walk.” Garrett suggested, he was deeply uneasy.

Maggie nodded but made no effort to move. Garrett grabbed her hands, “Maggie, c’mon, we can’t stay here all night, especially with so much unexplained.”

They left the car and stepped onto the muddy road. The two walked forward into the blackness, shoes sinking and squishing in the mud.  Garrett tried not to panic, through the forest seemed unearthly. The air was freezing and the trees creaked in the weather. The feeling of dread hung in the night.

“Can’t be far. It’s so cold.” Maggie shivered. Clouds of mist swirled above the flooded pathway. Water dripped on her arm, sinking into the fabric. She looked up at the dark sky, “Garrett, did you feel…” It a sudden burst rain fell from the sky, drenching them in the icy water.

Garrett tugged at Maggie’s arm “Cmon! Hurry!” They ran, mud splattering in all directions.

“It’s up here!” Maggie could not contain her relief as she spotted the house’s glowing warmth amidst the thick night. They climbed the waterlogged steps of the front porch, Neal McCoy’s car nowhere in sight. Emerging from the thick forest, the sound of a car’s engine roared behind them. Petrified with fear, they watched the car crept to a stop.

“Dad?” Maggie sputtered. The lights dropped and the car turned off. Both staring at the vehicle, “It’s…” Garrett gulped and his hand began to shake uncontrollably. “It’s my car. Maggie. It’s my car.”

“No!.. that is not possible, who drove it?” Maggie said in disbelief. Garrett pulled the keys out of his pocket and hung them in his hands. He gapped at her, mouth open in disbelief and she exclaimed, “Garrett!” No one got out of the car.

 “But how? Maggie, there is no driver.” He edged closer to the vehicle. The car sputtered to life, its lights and engine turning on. It was alive. Garrett jumped in terror as Maggie frantically unlocked the front door. They sprinted inside and slammed it shut. Maggie yelled “Dad! Dad!... Dad!-- but no response. 

The lights in the house began to flicker ever so slightly in spasms, the TV clicked on to static, blaring muffled voices that were incomprehensible. Garrett wrapped his arms around Maggie, as they stared helplessly at the convulsing electrical appliances in the house. A blender spun in the kitchen and the radio was scrolling through stations automatically. Then everything turned off, leaving the house in darkness.

Maggie felt for the light switch with her hand, working it frantically. “Work dammit!” She yelled and with a final attempt, the main house light clicked on.

“The car is off. Maggie lock the door!” Garrett commanded.

“Where is my Dad?” Maggie was hysterical and sobbing, and her eyes welled up with exhaustion and fear, “The house, the car, the light we saw? What is happening?”

 “The news station on the radio,” Garrett told himself, stepped towards the TV.

“Don’t” Maggie whispered, frightened. Garrett ignored her response and began to scroll through the channels.

“85.9” Maggie whispered in a sniffle, “It’s one my Dad uses, still listens to it to stay informed.” Her once elegant hair was a wet knot and her makeup wilted down her face, “What about the car?”

“It’s off. Went off with the rest of the house.”

“But...”

“Watch it then!”

The static noise emitted from the radio interrupted them… “Police advise everyone to stay inside and off the roads as flood warning are being sent throughout the county. Power outages are being reported and PG&E reports that they are trying to fix these lines despite the weather. Numerous calls to the police station, claiming that something crashed in the forest, are being investigated by local authorities. Eyewitnesses stating that what they saw did not resemble a plane but rather… well I had to double check this. Folks are saying that a saucer crashed into the south side of town. Well, you heard it here first, stay tuned for more updates. If you wish to report something call the 85.9 hotline and if you are facing severe flooding…” a wave of static interrupted the broadcast.

Garrett turned to look at Maggie, “Did we witness the crash?”

Maggie huffed, “Maybe...No, don’t be silly, you don’t really think a UFO landed?” her tone was incredulous, yet unsure.

Garrett responded, “No I do not think it’s a UFO, but something happened in those woods and that is where your father is. They must’ve called him in to help.” Garrett’s logical reasoning calmed Maggie’s worries and she sighed.

“Let’s get out of these wet clothes. I am so cold, I feel weak. You can borrow something of Dad’s.” She disappeared down the hall, and return minutes later with a dry stack in her hands, already changing herself into sweats.

Before Garrett grabbed the clothes, he went towards the phone and began to dial his parent’s house number, then disappointedly hung up the phone. “Line’s down, figures. My parents will be upset.” Maggie put the clothes in his lap and he left to change out of his soaked tuxedo.

The storm howled and in a ferocious passing cell. The house rattled, then clicked abruptly back into complete darkness. Frightened to be alone in the dark, Maggie searched frantically for a lantern in the cupboard under the sink, only to find a candle. Its light danced around the fragile looking house which creaked in the storm.

  “How do you think my car started by itself...ahh my head?” Garrett returned into the room, his head shooting agonizing pain.

“Well it’s dead. Hasn’t made a sound since. What drove… I just don’t?”  Maggie’s voice trailed. Garrett moved into the living area and collapsed on the couch. Maggie stared out the windows into the darkness, listening for noises hidden under the sound of rain tattering vehemently on the roof.

Garrett’s headache surged into a violent migraine. Nausea and vertigo left him crippled fetally on the couch clutching his temples. He was helplessly absorbed in the pain, the blinding light shining in his thoughts and mind. Maggie shook him aggressively, pulling him back to reality. “Something’s outside, Garrett!” Her face leaning over his in terror.

 “Mag... My head. ”

“It was awful! I saw flashing red lights! The trees were glowing red! There was a noise, like a dying animal! I yelled at you but, then I saw something move towards the house!” She pointed out the window, then ran to the kitchen for a knife.

“Maggie?”

“Garrett I swear to you! Small and thin! I saw the brush moving and, its face...” She blabbered incoherently.

 Garrett slowly moved from the couch, facing the window, “Is it all locked?” He reached for the knife from Maggie, clutching the weapon defensively.

“What I saw, it’s coming!” her voice was high and paralyzed with fear, tears were wet down her cheeks.

The front door began to shake. With thunderous knocks the door rattled. The knob shook in fury and Maggie shrieked madly in horrified response. Only a wall separated them from the monstrous being trying to break down the door. The lamp near the door shook, then toppled, shattering the bulb into shards. Garrett was preparing to lunge at the form, adrenaline began to course through his veins and his heart leaped. He crouched low in front of Maggie.

“Let me in, god dammit! It is me!” The familiar deep voice of her father howled through the door.

Maggie leaned forward only to be blocked by Garrett’s hand. He whispered, “How do we not know it can’t shape shift?”

The voice hollered, “Let me in! Madge! You there! Open it now!”

Maggie cried,  “That’s gotta be him,” to terrified to think it was otherwise.

Garrett grabbed her arm now, “How can you know?”

His once brown eyes seemed unfamiliar. Maggie tugged her arm away in anger, and went to the door. “Dad?” her voice was scared.

“Madge, it is me, let me in I lost my key!” His voice was impatient. Maggie looked back at Garrett, then stated, “Only he calls me Madge.” She unlocked the stiff lock letting the dripping figure in.

The tall figure stomped through the door, shedding the layers of his coat and Maggie ran into his arms muttering how glad she was that he was home. Garrett eyed the scene warily standing up holding the knife erectly. “So, he’s here, huh?” Neal grumbled to Maggie and turned to lock the door. Garrett’s muscles were rigid. He was wary and untrusting of the father.

“How did you get here?” Garrett barked at the Neal, “I didn’t see a car pull up.”

The father’s glared at him and barked back, “I walked.” Neal went to the kitchen and washed his hands in the sink.

“Where’s the car?” Maggie slid towards Garrett, suspicion rising.

Neal turned off the water and shook out his hands on the floor. “The damn thing drove off! Hell if I know. There and then it wasn’t!”

“That’s like…” Maggie started but Garrett interrupted.

“You were at the crash site, we heard. The radio,” Garrett grasped for understanding, his headache throbbing.

“What was it, Dad?” Maggie leaned closer anxiously. Neal turned to stare out the window at the bucketing water that was pouring off of the roof’s gutter. His jeans were caked with mud to his knees.

Maggie began to holler in frustration, “Tell me! Dad! Tell me! I saw something! I need to know!” She was exasperated. Neal snapped around, looking her square in the face “How dare you interrogate me in my house! You watch it!” He strode out of the kitchen, only to stop and exhale, “I can’t describe what I saw.”

 “What happened?” Maggie was firm and unphased. He spoke slowly, “Got a call from sheriff’s office while I was watching TV. Said they needed more experienced officers on the scene. I didn’t hesitate to go. Figured it was an officer’s duty.”

 “What crashed?” Garrett interrupted.

But the father continued, “Got calls on the radio they had a follow up in progress. Why it was… nothing like I had ever seen. Then FBI officials came out of nowhere by the truckloads, saying the site was under their jurisdiction, sent us away. Then my car died.”

Maggie responded, “Can they?”

“They did!” He was angered now and looked down at his hand which was dripping blood.

“Dad, you’re hurt?” Maggie was concerned. Wrapping the end of his shirt around his hand, Neal moved to the couch. No one followed.

Garrett grabbed Maggie’s shoulder, “What the hell is going on here!”

She stared at Garrett blankly, a drip of blood rolled from her nose. She whipped it away quickly, only to freeze at the sight of crimson staining her hand.

They did not dare to venture from the main room of the house, with no electricity and no communication. The candle, becoming a stub of wax, flicker amidst the dark and cold room. Outside the storm persisted.  Neal refused to talk, squeezing his hand to stop the bleeding.

“This is such bullshit! I hate when you are like this! Go ahead and shut down, that doesn’t solve anything!” Maggie shouted, moving by the window. She was fearful of the vast darkness, and unable to find comfort in her father.

Garrett’s head still ached with the same droning pain as before. The silence of their absent words clouded the room. Maggie jolted from the window, “I heard it! I…” tears poured from her eyes as she ran and clung to Garrett.

“Nothing is out there, just the storm.” he responded with urgency in his voice, but interrupting him was a clash of metal falling outside. Her father stood up, a look of concern on his face. He paced slowly toward the noise, squinting his eyes to look out of the window. A whirl of sound caused them all to stare up at the ceiling. The buzz and hum boomed through the room like an earthquake, shaking the house’s foundation.

Louder the noise got, closer and closer. Outside light filled the darkness, a bright white light, blinding them all. Falling to the ground, Maggie shielded her eyes, her father’s stared uncomprehending into the illumination. All was pulsing.

# # #

The grey light of the morning shown through the windows streaking throughout the room. Maggie lifted her head and stood up from her hunched position. Her neck ached and she gazed around the room. Garrett was by her side, his head finally feeling relief. She found her father still staring out the kitchen window. She scanned the house, moving towards the front door. It was so different than the last instant. All was quiet, birds chirped faintly in the morning light, and the sound of rain had ceased.

“What the hell!” Neal shouted in disbelief. They all stood still in a state of shock.

“We lost several hours! Just like the first time!” Garratt was ecstatic.

Maggie spoke frightened, “There is a black car outside.”

Her father moved to her as someone knocked at the door. They all shifted nervously, edging closer to the entrance of the house as her father opened the door. A man suited in black addressed them in a low voice, flashing a badge of authority.

The agent spoke authoritatively “...I’m Coleman from the FBI. SAC, special agent in charge. I’m here to address the concern of the locals. The situation has been controlled. Crash was a military blunder. We’ll be compounding the area for procedural measures.”

The agent turned to leave but Garrett questioned, “So what happened? We’ve had a hell of a night here.”

“I am afraid that is classified, sir.”

“What about the power outages, or our time loss!” Garrett clinched his fists.

“Nasty storm you folks had, best leave it at that. Tends to cause you people nerves.” The agent accused.

“Hell it was nerves!” Neal argued, “I’ll see to it local authorities will have a say in this!”

“I’m afraid that is not possible,” the FBI agent turned to leave.

“Get inside!” Neal pushed the kids through the door and slammed it shut.  Garrett watched the official agent drive off in his black shiny car.

“What was that?” Maggie was outraged.

Neal shook his head, “Bureaucracy bullshit that was! If they think I’ll keep quiet, to hell I will!”

“Dad?’ Maggie questioned.

Her father responded, “I do not know what kind of new gadgets they are using in the military, but that was no jet I saw last night. No one has that kind of technology. The metal was fibrous, and the area was incinerated. We all tried to pull out any survivors from the rubble; sliced my hand clean open.”

Maggie was stunned, “How could it be? Are you saying that aliens exist” Uncertainty and mistrust boiled inside her, nothing seemed fact and yet they had experienced the unexplainable.

“Do you know what you saw for sure?” Garrett was baffled, “What if all the Sci Fi is true?”

“The storm has stopped, you need to contact your parents.” Neal’s words drew Garrett back into reality. Garrett went to try the phone. As he held it up to his ear, his gaze met Maggie’s tired face. Garrett turned towards Neal, “Still deader than a doornail.”

“I need to go to the sheriff's office. If they think they can cover this up!... I’ll drive you home.” 

“Dad, your car is gone. Remember?” Maggie arms were crossed at her chest.

“Garrett got a car, don’t he?” Neal was searching for a dry coat and his cell phone.

“It drove itself here,” Garrett responded, “I don’t trust that thing anymore!”

“Hell son! I am driving it! I need to speak to the other officers. We ain’t sitting here in this damn house for sure. I’ll tell you that! If we are getting answers, it ain’t happening here!” Neal stood impatiently at the front door and gesturing Garrett outside.

“Dad, it drove itself! Is that safe?” Maggie was anxious.

“We are all going! Now get!” Neal marched outside, followed reluctantly by the others.

The forest seemed to have physically changed. Questions hung in the cold, moist air. They packed into the car. Maggie stared back at the house from the window, only to catch in her hands the sudden blood oozing from her nose. Using her sleeve to soak the blood, they drove off.

 Little did they know that in the shadows under the slippery wooden porch of the house, a being hid in the darkness. Its transparent skin and black eyes sticky in the humidity. Its otherworldly appearance looming in the family’s ignorance, patiently waiting and listening.

The End

About the Author:

Brenn Haydon is 17 and lives in Placer County, California. She attends Placer High School and plans to attend a four year college after graduation to study Humanities and Writing. She hopes to become an author and teacher. Her favorite authors are Isabel Allende and J.K. Rowling. Her favorite book is The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. Brenn wishes to thank her parents for encouraging her to write and for loving English as much as she does!

Be sure to read all winning stories from the Teen SF Writing Contest:

1st Place: The Tower
2nd Place: Hidden Beauty
3rd Place (Tied): Twilight Promenade 
3rd Place (Tied):  Wildest Dreams Ruined