by Aaron Rodriguez
“Hey Adam! You leaving already?” Evan, my closest friend, stumbles out onto the porch of his house. A Metallica playlist blasts for a moment before the door closes behind him. He removes his wolf mask and takes a swig from the beer can in his hand.
“Yeah man, it’s getting late.” I show him my phone screen, it flashes 12:06 AM. I adjust my skeleton costume. The shadows of tree branches close in on us when my screen goes dark.
“But it’s Halloween! I haven’t even howled at the moon yet.” He points at the moon with his chin.
“I have work in the morning. But it was good to catch up.”
“Adam, don’t be a ball buster. Here,” he puts the beer can in front of my mouth, “just finish this one and call into work tomorrow.”
“I’m good, Evan. My Uber should be here any minute anyway.” I push the beer can out of my face.
“Wow, Adam. You used to be fun.” Evan sneers. “One rough night last summer and you turn into a damn recluse.”
“I’m just trying to focus on other things. Don’t give me that.” I look at the string of mini jack-o-lantern lights decorating the porch.
“Yeah, I’m sure that’s it.” He sips what’s left in his can. “Whatever man.”
I check my phone, still 3 minutes away. I crack the bones in my neck. I don’t dare think about last summer.
“Looks like your ride’s here. Run along now.” Evan says and makes a running motion with his fingers.
I shake my head and look at the black car that is almost camouflaged by the dark. If it weren’t for the headlights, you wouldn’t be able to see it.
“See ya.” I say without turning around and walk down the porch. I can feel Evan’s eyes burning into my backside. I pick up my pace and open the door of the backseat.
“Welcome.” A gruff voice says. I catch a glimpse of his hazel eyes, pale skin, and beard as he turns to greet me over his shoulder. I nod and shut the car door.
“Harlan and 25th.” I take off my top hat and toss it on the black leather next to me. A glowing skull sits on the dashboard.
“Aren’t you going to put your seatbelt on?” He asks.
“Can you just drive please, man?” I roll my eyes and take off my skeleton gloves.
“Hmm.” He snickers and looks at me through the rear view mirror. He begins to drive.
“Can’t wait to get home.” I say under my breath. My phone vibrates. Evan’s face fills my screen. I let it go to voicemail. The driver’s long black curls gleam in the phone’s light. The phone vibrates again.
“How long have you had your long hair?” I ask him, more to distract myself than an interest to fill the silence.
“What feels like an eternity.” He reaches for the radio dial. A silver ring decorates his bony, index finger. My phone vibrates for a third time. Evan’s face is inescapable. I press the answer button.
“What’s up? No, I have it on silent. It’s- no. I already told you, Evan…”
I notice the driver’s eyes staring at me in the mirror again. I look down. Can’t he mind his own damn business?
“Can we please not bring that up? It’s one simple rule, Evan. Can you respect that? No! My fault?! You’re the one who was driving!” I yell into the phone.
“My idea! Well, it was my idea that saved us! I can’t even believe you right now, Evan. You would have kissed your future goodbye if it weren’t for me! Oh you’re sorry? I’m so done with this conversation.” I huff and put my phone down. I expect the phone to light up with his face again but it stays black.
“Anything I can help with?” The driver asks. He makes a right turn.
“Sir, you really need to butt out right now.”
“Suit yourself.” The only sound is ACDC’s Highway to Hell coming out of his radio.
“Fan of the oldies, huh?” I try to ease the tension.
“Oh yeah. I remember when this song was released. Seeing it live was one hell of an experience. No pun intended, of course. It’s not like the apps you kids have nowadays. You wanted to feel an artist’s essence, you had to do whatever you could to see them in person.”
“Hmm.” I say, less interested in this conversation.
“If you knew KISS was rolling through for one single show in your state and you had to drive 6 hours to see them. You did it. Anything to get in that crowd. If you had to sell your soul for Zeppelin tickets, you did it.”
“I bet.” I look out the window and don’t recognize the poorly lit backroad he’s driving on.
“Hey, do you know where you’re going?”
“You sure? Where are we? We should have reached my apartment by now.” I open my maps app.
“Just sit back. I’m taking a shortcut. I know exactly where I’m taking you.” He turns up the song significantly higher.
“You’re not one to relinquish control easily, Adam.” He says calmly.
“How do you know my name?” I raise my eyebrows.
“We’ve met before.”
“I’m sorry, who are you?”
“My friends call me ‘Old Nick.’”
“I don’t know any Nicks. How do you know my name?”
“I’d be less worried about who you think I am and more worried about your consequences.” He speeds up. The orange and yellow leaves scatter on the road as we zip by them.
“I don’t know what you mean.” His motor revs as we go even faster.
“Oh, I think you do.”
“Hey ‘Old Nick’ can you slow the hell down, please?” I look around but there’s no one in sight and ahead of us is only open road.
“Irony at its finest.” He snickers. “Judgment, consequence, punishment. You’re getting exactly what you deserve.”
“What is this??” I check my door handle but I can’t unlock it.
“It’s just your time, Adam. I do believe you had a few more years ahead of you but you threw those away last summer after that concert.” He says with alarming confidence.
“What are you-I…it wasn’t my fault!” I shout.
“Sure it wasn’t,” the driver says. The speedometer reads 140 mph. Looming darkness ahead of us.
“It was her own fault! She shouldn’t have been in the middle of the road like that.” I swallow the rising fear in my throat.
“Unfortunately for you, she was somebody that was supposed to be untouchable in our realm. Protected. Fortunately for me, just another name I no longer have to worry about.” His voice begins to get deeper. His pale fingers suddenly grow longer around the steering wheel. “Though I must admit, disposing of the body the way you did.” His voice gets raspy and low.”Even I was impressed.”
“Please…please stop the car.” My voice quivers and my eyes water.
“Tears? This early?” His hazel eyes in the rear view mirror turn completely black. His shoulders begin to slouch and his spine begins to curve and crunch. “It’s just as well, this isn’t going to be pleasant for you.”
“This can’t be real!” I shout and hit the window with my fist.
“Ha!” His guttural voice lingers and fangs protrude from the corners of his lips.
Ahead, I see the large entrance of a tunnel approaching quickly.
“No! Please!” I plead.
“It’s much too late for any of that.” He smiles back at me, his tongue is suddenly too large for his widening mouth.
I scream. His rough, clawed hand grabs at my skeleton shirt as we enter the tunnel and the thick darkness swallows us. I hope to see a light at the end but all I hear is the echo of Old Nick’s rumbling laughter.
Aaron Rodriguez is a writer, fashion stylist, and horror movie addict in Denver, Colorado. Whether he’s working on pitches at 303 Magazine, drinking coffee around the city, or shopping for anything in black, you can follow what he’s up to on Instagram @BlankCanvasFashion