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Citrus Surprise

by Lori Hines

A sliver of a moon spied down upon an unassuming ranch-style house surrounded by dense pine forest. The chirruping of crickets echoed throughout the quiet, rural neighborhood. Inside, empty beer bottles were scattered on top of the living room table, some upright and others lying on their sides. And the smell of pizza, box left opened on the sofa table, wafted throughout Dale and Bill’s home.

Dale Adler, a drifter, age thirty, who had just moved from his parents basement to his friend Bill’s house, watched as his last beer tipped over, pouring its yellowish liquid onto the already stained beige carpet.

But Bill Renquist didn’t even notice. As he sat in the couch facing the front window, he witnessed someone pass through the woods. A whitish figure that moved past with very little effort.

Bill, a student at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff studying archeology, suddenly got chills, even though it was a warm July evening. One of the reasons he had decided to rent this house was because of the sprawled-out Indian ruins located a quarter mile north of where he lived. That and the fact the location was remote enough that he could have parties and no one would complain.

“What is it you keep looking at?” asked Dale.

“I saw something out there. It was heading towards the ruins.”

Dale got up from the armchair and stumbled to the window. “Don’t you mean ‘someone’?”

Bill didn’t answer at first. “Yeah, someone,” he whispered. “I’m going for a walk.”

“Hey man, wait up!” Dale yelled.

Bill, not realizing Dale was directly behind him, heard a thump and looked through the window to see his friend’s face smashed up against the front door as it closed in his face.

“Hurry up,” said Bill, laughing hysterically.

Halfway to the ruins, Bill realized how much he had to pee, and found a thick ponderosa pine to hide behind just in case any cars drove down the rural road.

Rustling from a few feet away startled him. “Okay dude,” Bill yelled to Dale, “I know you’re here. Getting your jollies watching?” He zipped up his fly and walked back towards the road. Dale was still there, waiting.

“What are you screaming about? I’ve been here all along! Man, you’re paranoid!” His friend just stared at him as if he were totally crazy.

Okay Bill, he thought. Get a grip on yourself!

Normally, he felt right at home in the forest. But tonight, something else had made it home. Even though Bill became more uncomfortable the closer they got to the ancient structure, his curiosity drove him onward.

He couldn’t hear anything else, but he knew they were being watched. Bill felt as if he were being lured and wondered if perhaps the artifacts that he had taken, a large piece of Kayenta black-on-white pottery and smaller section of solid beige potsherd a few days before, were the reason for all this.

A Native American co-worker had told him that these ruins were a very spiritual place. There were stories that whoever chose to remove artifacts from the property would receive punishment from a depraved female shapeshifter spirit. But Bill had never believed in such folklore.

They arrived at the brick and clay mortar ruins, some of which still had wooden beams hanging haphazardly from the roofs. Bill instantly regretted not having a flashlight. The woods hid the ruins from any artificial light, and the place that he considered his private sanctum during the day seemed threatening as dark shadows darted among the mounds and remains.

But it wasn’t the shadows themselves, it was as if something were stirring up the very spirits that still resided here.

Out of nowhere, a sweet orange and honeysuckle scent permeated Bill’s senses. Definitely a female scent. “Do you smell that?” he asked Dale.

There was no reply. When he glanced over, his friend was standing completely still, a major feat for someone who had just downed eight beers within an hour. Bill followed his gaze downward into a room that was below ground. The ancient beige stones were still intact and packed against a dirt wall with logs that had fallen into the pit.

A stunning dark-haired young woman stood there staring at them both. Her corporeal body hung in mid-air in the center of the excavated room. The exact same room he had taken the potsherds from.

“Crap!” he whispered. “It’s true!” She floated a few feet above the bottom of the room. And he could see right through her to the ruins beyond.

There was no sound whatsoever. The constant serenading of the crickets had ceased. There was no breeze. And neither of them could move or breathe. They were transfixed as she slowly moved towards them.

Then a clear, distinct whisper echoed from her lips. “You’re mine.”

Bill snapped back to reality. “Let’s go!” he screamed, as he grabbed Dale’s arm and pulled him away from the approaching apparition.

Bill pulled Dale so hard that he stumbled and fell, face first onto the ground. “What the hell?” Dale yelled. “What’s going on?”

He suddenly realized his friend had still been in a trance. “Come on man, we have to get the hell out of here.” The future archeologist glanced back to see the opaque figure still advancing.

Dale followed Bill’s gaze, then took off running ahead of him.

As they ran full force towards the front door of their house, the ghostly woman appeared in front of them, blocking their way in.

“Your truck,” screamed Dale.

For a split second, Bill thought his keys were inside the house. Then he remembered that he had placed them in his pocket while carrying in four six packs of beer.

He pulled the car keys out so quickly that the inside lining of his pocket came out with them, along with odd change and a piece of gum.

They jumped into Bill’s grey beat-up Chevy truck. It raced down the bumpy dirt road at fifty miles per hour, the loose bumper banging and knocking against the rear of the vehicle.

“Is that what you saw from inside the house?” Dale asked.

I can’t tell him that this is all my fault! Bill stared straight ahead, hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly that he thought his veins would burst through his skin.

“Oh no!” screamed Dale. He looked out the dusty passenger side window seconds later. Something ran alongside the truck, scrutinizing them both with two depraved, dark orange eyes.

A skinwalker! Bill looked into the eyes of a hunched-over figure with long silvery grey hair coating its strong, lean body. Its hairy arms pounded on the glass so hard Bill thought it would shatter. Pointed ears and a long snout pressed up against the glass, thick saliva hanging off the roof of its mouth, and sharp fangs ready to pierce flesh.

Bill floored the gas to sixty, sliding all over the uneven terrain.

How can it be keeping up with us? Bill realized too late that the car door was unlocked. The creature flung the passenger side door open and hung on. It reached in with its three-inch claws and swiped at Dale. He screamed as the beast sliced his right arm at the elbow. A deep gash revealed tendon and tissue.

“It’s trying to get into the bed of the truck,” Dale winced in pain and held his wounded arm. “Head to the main road. We should be able to lose it there.”

Bill grabbed a towel from under his seat and threw it to Dale to wrap around his arm. Then he picked up speed and closed the mile to the paved road.

As soon as he made the right hand turn onto the smooth surface, a dark-haired female stood there, observing the truck as it loomed closer.

It can’t be! This girl looks too real, he thought.

“Bill, watch out,” screamed Dale. But it was too late. The truck hit the young girl at full speed. A distinct thud resounded as the impact sent her small frame under the car. He slammed on the brakes, pulled off to the side, and jumped out, checking under his truck.

“Are you kidding? Get back in the truck! It’s after us, man!”

He heard his friend screaming, but he couldn’t just leave her here. Bill frantically looked around for the girl, thinking maybe she had been flung into the bushes. Then he glanced through the driver’s side window. “What the hell?” he yelled aloud, jumping back from the vehicle.

He hadn’t heard a thing. Yet the cab of his truck was full of blood and gore. His best friend’s head had been sliced clean from his body, stomach and chest opened with three wide gashes.

Low growling and wet, gravelly breathing directly behind him caused a release of warm bodily fluid down his inner thighs. He turned and was face to face with the mammoth creature, his friend’s skull in his gaping jaws.

The familiar orange and honeysuckle scent from earlier. And the same female whisper... “You’re mine.” The massive, hairy paw opened to reveal the two pottery pieces that Bill had taken. Then a single, curved claw popped out of its hand, and stopped Bill’s scream before it could begin.

Copyright © 2010 by Lori Hines

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