It was around 3:06 in the morning that the crazies come out — some of them deformed but most of them passably human-looking. This was the conclusion that 27 year-old Nicki had drawn as he stood by the entrance of the 24/7 convenience store. He shivered as the early November morning breeze, crisp and cold, hit him. If only others could see them too. Misery likes company, right?
The likes of him were far and few between. “Trackers” was the term his grandma used. “Never you mind them crazies, Nicolas m’boy,” She used to tell him more than once. (Usually after finding him upset after an encounter with the creatures.) “They are not after you. So long as you aren’t in their list of to-do’s, you got nothin’ to worry ’bout.” Well, there is that. At least that’s one blessing he could count on. Occasionally glimpse the supernatural but go on with life as if nothing in the world was off-kilter.
The door behind him suddenly opened, hitting him on the back. Nicki turned around, not knowing whether to be grateful for the distraction or be pissed off.
“Would you mind standing on the side a bit, mister? We are hauling stuff in here and need as much space as we can.” It was one of the store employees, a skinny young man who looked as if one slight breeze could be take him straight to the Land of Oz.
Nicki gave a curt nod. It was late and he was tired and wanted to get home now. If only something hadn’t caught his eye. The paperbag in Nicki’s hand made a crumpling sound as he held on tightly to it and made his way to his ruby colored Ford Escape. Careful not to stray his glance on the other side of the street, he concentrated in getting inside his car as quickly as possible. Just dig out the key from his pocket, open the door, slide inside the seat, start the ignition —
“Hello, mister,” a voice, cloying yet empty, suddenly cut through the stillness of the night.
With calmness that he absolutely did not feel, Nicki settled the paperbag on the passenger seat and then looked at the owner of the voice. He found himself looking into a pair of eyes that were pools of nothingness. It was like someone poured black ink into those two holes that were once human eyes. Cold fear scraped along his spine as he looked at the creature. He should’ve shut the door right then and but there was something about its eyes that was making him stall.
“Can you give me a ride? I can go down on the corner just before you enter the fancy beach houses area,” He smiled, revealing a set of small, canine teeth — perfectly yellow and grotesquely filmy.
Nicki averted his eyes and that seemed to dispel whatever hold this creature had over him. The fear was still there but it faded a bit. He silently reached for the door handle, hoping that crazies take hints.
“You live there, don’t you?” He said, obviously hell-bent in riding with him.
“I’m going the other way,” Nicki said firmly. “Go away.”
The creature regarded him for a couple of seconds and then surprisingly stepped back. If the likes of him could actually be capable of human emotions, Nicki would guess that the expression on his face could be best described as confounded. Nicki quickly shut the door and stepped on the gas, not caring how his tires were squealed like pigs gone mad in a farm.
“Hey, drive carefully, you arrogant bastard!” The store employee yelled out.
And that was how Nicki Saffron, known to be a mild-mannered and easygoing entrepreneur, was caught speeding by a cop three blocks away. And that was how Alex Benitez came to the conclusion that not one of her friends here in Maroon Island could really be considered as normal.
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