Several things happened at once. The crowd, seeming to get over its shock en masse, scattered. Debbie wrenched the passenger side door open, turning her attention from the creature in favour of self-preservation. And the creature, instead of leaping, seemed to hunker down, its quills bristling. Somehow the motion didn’t do anything to set my mind at ease.
Debbie’s ass struck the seat cushion at the same time as a veritable barrage of those massive porcupine-like quills struck the passenger door and window. Debbie screamed, but more from shock than pain, I thought, as the glass from the shattered window rained down on her lap, followed by a quill, made more or less harmless by its loss of momentum.
“Hold on,” I said, more than a little surprised by the controlled sound of my voice and without waiting for her acknowledgement, I let my foot fall on the gas pedal.
The passenger side door wasn’t closed, but Debbie’s death grip on the handle was enough to keep it from swinging wide as I abruptly sped off, veering away from the monster, heedless of the rules of the road. If the thing followed, or decided on easier prey, I wasn’t aware of it. I turned the first corner I came across, making a sharp right without signalling, and settled into a smoother speed almost by reflex.
“Shut the door, Debbie,” I commanded her, beginning to regain control of my faculties.
“Oh, yeah, right,” she muttered, her voice as shaky as her motions.
I glanced over to see her gripping her leg tightly as she grimaced in pain. My eyes widened in horror taking in the sight of the quill embedded in her leg and the blood that ran down her leg from the wound, but there was nothing I could say or do to make it better.
It took her some effort, but the door clicked at least partially closed and she was able to let go of the handle. Debbie fidgeted, uncertain what to do with her hands. One hand hovered over the filthy-looking quill in her lap, but then she seemed to think better of it and settled on lifting a piece of glass from her thigh instead.
“W..what..?” She began, but I forestalled her, knowing the question she was trying to ask.
“I don’t know, Deb.” I decided not telling her about Howe and what I’d seen in the bar’s basement was for the best.
“D..do…” She stopped, gathered herself and tried again. “Paul?”
“I’m sure he’s okay,” I told her, whether it was true or not.
Debbie just nodded and fell silent, her eyes distant. As I drove, I became aware of two things. The power was still out and everywhere, not just the area around the bar. The brightest thing in any direction was the ominously pink and orange storm-filled sky. The other thing was that there was no emergency vehicles. No sirens, no calls of alarm and no reassuring presence of cops racing to the seen. I didn’t mention it to Debbie, but I hoped that they were simply taking another, quicker route to the bar. Preferably with massive tranquilizer guns to take that thing out and put it back in whatever zoo or experimental horror factory it had come from.
That’s a good question though, I realized abruptly, where in hell did that thing come from? And how did it get into Howe’s basement?
Neither Debbie, nor the eerily silent streets gave me any answers. I needed to get Debbie to a hospital, but without thinking about it, I instinctively took the streets that led me toward home. Halfway there, Debbie seemed to realize where we were headed.
“I’m waking my parents up and then I’m taking you to the hospital,” I stated firmly, deciding right there and then on my plan of action. “Are you okay for now?”
She nodded. “But what about Paul?” she seemed to have recovered herself enough to speak. “He won’t know where we’re going.”
“Call him, then,” I told her. “I have to make sure my parents and sister are safe. Besides, my dad will know what to do.”
My dad was a natural born leader and he’d spent the years before Becky and I were born in the Canadian armed forces. If anyone would know how to deal with an enraged monstrous cat-creature terrorizing the downtown streets, it would be him. I felt better just thinking about handing this problem over to his capable hands, though telling him would be a bit surreal. So, Dad… Debbie and I were out at the bar and…
I sighed as I pulled into my driveway, Debbie holding her cell to her ear like it was some kind of life line. I shot her a questioning glance. She shook her head looking worried as she shrugged. At least trying to get a hold of Paul is taking her mind off of things. Opening the door, I took advantage of her momentary distraction to extract the quill from her lap and mouth, “I’ll be right back.” She nodded again, and I left her in the car, knowing she’d scream if she so much as saw a housecat right now and I’d be able to rush back outside… to do what, I wasn’t sure.
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