Hopeless

Wellington

Railroaded

The past two weeks had been a hellish ride for Jonathan. He could not help but see that hellish thing that had murdered those men in Wichita. It might not have been so bad if it was just when he closed his eyes. He could tell himself it wasn’t real, then… but he’d seen it in waking life a few times.

And each time it was accompanied by death. The family in Derby. The woman in Mulvane. The farmhouse in Belle Plain. So it wasn’t his imagination. It was following him.

That wasn’t all, there were other things. His own change notwithstanding. What was going on? When he had awakened naked that morning he was confused. Now he wasn’t confused about why he had been naked, but he was confused about… the other thing.

The change. He had done it once more since that day. It was in Mulvane when he had stepped out of that convenience store into the early night. He swore someone was watching him. He couldn’t shake the feeling and as he walked from the store, he could sense them behind him. Then he heard their footsteps. He was about to confront whoever it was when he saw the nightmare creature, partially behind a dumpster and staring at him.

Then, it skittered across the street at a woman as she was unlocking the door to her car. Jonathan knew what was about to happen, but he couldn’t do anything, he was frozen in terror. The thing had just shrugged off his bullets before.

It ripped into the woman and she screamed. She screamed so loud. And all the while it stared at him, their eyes locked and Jonathan paralyzed.

That’s when someone grabbed him from behind.

The change came quickly. One moment he was Jonathan in Terror, held by an unknown assailant, the next he was crawling on the ground, all limbs and claws. A tail lashed out and connected, his attacker grunting in surprise. Then he dashed away, scuttling on eight furry, clawed feet. He could see easily in the dark. He sniffed the air, taking in the scents of the night through an elongated, whisker-laden snout. Then he dashed away, through a hole in a wooden fence and escaped.

That was last week. He’d had to find another set of clothes and then he left Mulvane, made it to Belle Plain, and now here he was in Wellington, getting closer to Oklahoma.

As he sat in the diner, using money he had panhandled at the off-ramp, he felt that feeling again. Before he could react, someone sat on the stool next to him.

“You’re a hard feller to track,” the man said.

Jonathan tensed up, preparing to run.

“Don’t bother, I got some friends waiting outside, you’ll just bump into em. Sit. Eat. Hear me out.” The waitress came by just then and the man ordered a serving of nachos. And a coke.

Jonathan just sat there, quiet, trying to find options.

“I know you’ve changed,” the man continued. “You’ve turned into something. A monster.” Jonathan looked at the man then. “I know because I can feel it in you, just like you can feel it in me.”

Jonathan’s brow furrowed. “What?”

“We’re alike, you and I, the same. We caught your trail in Mulvane, but you ran. Wasn’t our best moment, I have to say. You winged Henry pretty good,” the man chuckled. “He was mad for a minute, but he’ll get over it. First timers are always unpredictable. For good reason, I think. I was the same when it happened to me.”

“You… change too?” he asked. He could sense the man was telling the truth. That odd feeling he had sensed before and now? Easing the tension he could see that he was sensing that the man was indeed like him.

“Yes. And Henry outside Beatrice. Good people, I think you’ll like them. Probably need to get Henry a beer.”

“I don’t understand?”

“Well, come with us,” the man said. “We’ll tell you all about it. Help you out.”

Jonathan weighed his options. It could have been a trap from the family, but he truly felt a sense of camaraderie with the man. If they could tell him what was happening, that was worth the risk. If not, then he could always change and escape.

“Alright, where we going?”

“We’ll get in the car and head back to Wichita, we got a house we stay at there. You’ll be safe,” the man finishes his coke and stands up. “My name’s Rob, by the way.” He extended his hand.

Jonathan took it firmly. “Jon.”

“Right, Jon, let’s go.”

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