Prospect by Michael Bryan
Prospect by Michael Bryan
The bike spit liquid asphalt as it cut black and silver streaks through the dense fog that clung heavily to the mountain road. The exhaust note from the engine haunted the peaceful evening’s silence.
He clung tightly to the handlebars, and braced his knees against the frozen Harley’s gas tank. The tank’s chill just a reflection of the dense winter fog stubbornly sitting on the mountain floor. His shoulders were tense and his body was shaking from the cold. He knew this was the wrong time of year to be barreling down and icy mountainside, but that was beyond his control now.
In fact, all the events of tonight seemed surreal at best, terrifying at worst. He wondered to himself if he actually had a choice, or if it was all beyond his control. He still had the metal cylinder wrapped in a thick wool blanket and strapped to his handlebars which cut a path through the blanketed fog.
He didn’t even think that there was anyone on this mountain anymore. It had been deserted for years, which is why it was a great place to dump items that couldn’t just be thrown in the trash. He’d been up this mountain many times as a prospect for the club, since it always seemed like there was something that needed relocation.
He thought he was alone. He was wrong.
He didn’t know how long he had been staring at the cylinder before he noticed the lights. It felt like ages. Once the lights seeped into his consciousness, however, he wondered how he ever saw anything else. They radiated timbers of blindingly beautiful white light into the atmosphere, like a beacon to the gods. He knew he was fucked.
He rolled on the throttle, snapping himself out of his reverie and sped down the coiled mountain road. He craned his neck around to see if they were still giving chase, but the surrounding fog was too thick and his search proved fruitless.
“Did they even chase me?” He said aloud over the engine’s hypnotic growl. His mind was split between concentrating on the road ahead, which he knew intimately, and the fascination with the cylinder that taunted him only inches away.
It called to him when he first rolled up to the spot. It was an easy drop. A small hole in the back of a tree underneath the thick forest canopy serving as shelter from any undesirable attention. He has been so nervous the first time he made a drop. It seemed like every cough of his exhaust bounced alerts to the police, FBI, ATF, or whatever else might be out there. It got easier over time, at least as easy as any activity can be when the consequences are death or prison.
There it was. Sitting, infant like at the base of the redwood tree immediately opposite the drop site. The odd thing was, that even before he saw the object, he felt its presence. He ran over to it and immediately felt protective of its contents. He didn’t have a clue what was inside, but his every instinct told him to keep this safe. It’s almost as if the cylinder had somehow welded itself to his conscious self in some strange symbiotic madness.
He shifted down into third and leaned hard into a snaking right hand turn, the memories of the cylinder and the ominous light show drifting off as focus and instinct took hold as his tires melted into the damp road below.
As he steadied the bike and dipped into a wide open left hand turn, something caught the corner of his eye, but he was past it in an instant. His brain fumbled through the backup files of his short term memory and tried to recall the image to the forefront of his consciousness.
His brain locked in on a memory and he saw what it was. He focused in on the image of a young boy, maybe 4 or 5, shivering silently on the side of the road.
Shaking his head, and deciding the image was merely a hallucination brought on by the low fog and freezing temperatures, he plunged headlong down the mountain road.
Again, he pushed the bike deep into another sweeping left hand curve. As he pulled through the curve and into a straightaway, he saw another boy. There was a bright green dinosaur on the boy’s shirt that flashed quickly in his consciousness. He pushed through the turn, sure of what he had just seen. This was no fog created hallucination, but something much more tangible.
“Why in the hell would there be a boy out here?” That thought reverberated inside his head. Panic again overtook him as he shifted up a gear and dashed down the long, narrow corridor that he knew meant he was almost to the bottom.
As the fog began to clear he rolled on the throttle hard once again, hoping to get some much needed clarity. He plunged the bike through one last patch of thick fog. Instead of the bottom he anticipated, he was once again at the sweeping left hand turn. There, on the side of the road, was the figure of the boy, the bright green dinosaur shining through the fog.
This time, he quickly downshifted and screeched the bike to a stop. Confused, he got off and walked towards the boy, who was only a few yards away.
“Hey…kid…Whatcha doing out here? Hey!” He yelled as he staggered towards the boy, his head suddenly pounding. He tore at the hair on his temples, body trembling, as he screamed “HEEE-YYY” in a panic. Now close enough to touch, he saw the faceless body of what he thought was the boy. The creature just quivered silently as he stood there. It didn’t move, just pulsated in place, it was more marionette than boy.
A metallic screeching sound spilled from inside the creature, piercing his eardrums, the sound burrowing deep inside him. In a daze, he willed his body to move. Instinct dragged him away stumbling away from the creature, its faceless head still shrieking into the abyss, his feet scraping along the weathered road. Stepping out onto the road, his ringing ears could make out a familiar rumble just out of sight, coming around the bend. He squinted through the fog and tried to make out what was approaching. He watched as another motorcycle roared by, a shiny metallic cylinder rolled in an all too familiar thick wool blanket strapped to its handlebars. The realization of the scene, of the bike, of the rider, of the object, hit him and snapped him out of his haze. In a brief moment of passing clarity, he reached with trembling hands towards his fleeing body, the red taillights of the bike turning to shadowy decorations in the dense fog, then the lights engulfed him.
Copyright Michael Bryan 2019