Flash Fiction: Nighttime Headlights

He was closer at the time. That, I think, was the only reason I survived, and Herb didn’t. Like a hungry animal, the trick is simply to be the second slowest. Though what was chasing us was not an animal—I’m not sure what it was.

What we could see of it for certain was a light. We were out walking our city at night, a bit drunk, a little exhausted from all the dancing, but mostly calm, chipper, and riding that buzz of a good party, when a light came from behind us. Two of them, shining with a slight orange tint.

You might think, as we did, that this was just a car, someone driving home really late—but that wasn’t it. Not that we noticed anything odd at first. It took ten minutes of inebriated joking for the oddness to become apparent. Then we thought it was a little strange how slow it was, and how it always seemed to turn down the same roads we were going. Even when it followed us on a more esoteric route, we jumped to the assumption it was a cop. Maybe someone making sure we got home safely. That sort of thing.

Then the dog went down the road. It just darted out from somewhere, seeming to be excited or maybe scared. And the light met it, and we cried out in alarm.

There was no crash, no yip, no nothing.

The dog was framed by light, and then there was no dog. The lights had swiveled down when the dog vanished, like two fingertips plucking out a splinter. They illuminated each other, a beam shining brightly into another beam.  

And we could, for just a second, see long fleshy things holding both lights, the length of them curling up into the air.

We screamed then and ran in a panic. The thing behind us swiveled its lights toward us and barreled in our direction with a sound like a car’s revving engine, only wetter. I only looked back once the entire time we ran, and the only thing I could see was a mass of thin things, waving and moving and pounding at the ground, and a faint glimmer too high that looked like moonlight but smiled like a hyena.

I ran all the way home and slammed the door behind me. I pulled out my phone, utterly breathless. It was only as I dialed the first two digits that it occurred to me Herb had not followed. I rushed back to the door, flung it open in a panic, but the night street was simply empty, and calm, and only illuminated by the usual streetlights, glowing their faint yellow glow.   

Special thanks to: Melissa Potter

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