It was dark when Alison finished her shift at the nursing home. There was a distinct chill in the air despite the fact that it was almost summer, and Alison wasted no time in starting the engine of her car as soon as she got in.
She pulled out of the parking lot, sighing in relief, and switched the radio on. Soon she was singing along to Whitney Houston as she drove through the darkened country roads. Her headlights and the moon were the only things guiding her way.
Alison smiled to herself when the song ended, proud at having hit all of the notes successfully. The next song that came up was by Madonna, and wrinkled her nose in displeasure. She immediately went to work twisting the dial of the radio until Madonna's voice faded into static. Her eyes never left the road as her hand continued to turn the dial-she had done this a thousand times before. It was sometimes hard to get a good radio signal so far into the countryside, surrounded by hills and trees. The results would often be scratchy and unintelligible, but that never put off Alison. She just had to persist until she found something worth listening to.
She hummed to herself as she turned the dial ever so slowly, not wanting to miss even a single frequency. It was then that she made a hit. A jingle erupted from the radio speaker that was so clear in quality that Alison momentarily took her eyes off the road to glance at the radio in disbelief.
'Midnight Radio! Midnight FM! Midnight DJ!'
A crease formed between Alison's eyebrows. She had never heard of such a radio station.
'Welcome, ghouls and ghasts! I'm the Midnight DJ and I hope you're all having a splendid evening. The moon is out in all its glory and the witching hour is upon us once again. Tonight, we're accepting calls once again for our "Last Moments" programme, so don't be shy and give us a ring. We want to hear the deaths and the demises, the blood-curdling screams and the post-mortem rattles...'
'What on earth?' Alison muttered, her eyes flitting between the road and the radio. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. It was nowhere near Halloween and it certainly wasn't April Fool's day either. Her heart was racing in her chest, and she had half a mind to turn the radio off before she heard anymore, but she couldn't deny her curiosity and listened further.
'Oh, my, we've got a bunch of callers already. I think it's safe to say that it's going to be a busy night! Our first caller is "James" from Hertfordshire. James, hello, how are you tonight?'
A smooth voice responded with, 'I'm doing very well, tonight, DJ. Thank you for asking.'
'Well, I'm glad to hear that, James. I know that this isn't your first time calling us-one might even say you're something of a veteran-so tell us, who is the lucky lady going to be tonight? We know you're a fan of scream queens.'
James chuckled. 'I'm not going to name any names, but what I can tell you is that she's one beautiful woman. Absolutely beautiful-and not just on the outside I might add. I've been chasing her all night and she has no idea how close I am. I can almost taste the smell of her in the air.'
'James, you sound positively smitten.'
'Honestly, I think I am a little bit. She's one of a kind. A rare breed.'
'Do you think you'll land the killing blow tonight? Will our listeners be treated to her screams?'
'I'm not sure yet. I like the thrill of the chase.'
The Midnight DJ laughs. 'Oh, so you're planning to drag this one out, are you?'
'For a girl like her, I'm willing to take things slow.'
Another cackle from the DJ. 'Well, thank you, James. We look forward to hearing from you again-hopefully this very night if you're successful with your kill!'
Alison shut off the radio with a sneer of disgust. The steering wheel felt damp beneath her sweaty palms. She reckoned that it was some elaborate, mean-spirited prank, and frankly she didn't find it funny at all. People sure had a lot of spare time on their hands to be able to come up with such a twisted idea for a radio show.
No longer in a musical mood, Alison continued to drive in silence. The trees on either side of the road took on a sinister quality. It was as if monsters lurked within their shadows, and Alison didn't dare let her eyes stray from the road to look at them. The last thing she wanted to spot was that "James" fella watching her from the foliage. It took all her self control not to put her foot down on the gas so that she could reach the main road faster.
'Calm yourself, Alison.' she thought to herself.
There was a bend in the road and Alison slowed down accordingly. As soon as she made the turn, her headlights caught the pale form of a woman dashing out from the trees. Alison screamed at the sight of her and stepped on the brakes. The car came to a halt and the pale woman made a run towards it. Her bobbed hair was the colour of flax, and she wore a simple white dress that was sullied with mud. Her feet, which were bare, were also caked in mud, and Alison considered driving away before the woman could reach her door. In all the years she had driven through this road, she had never come across a person walking around this late at night, especially not someone who looked as if they'd just trekked through the fields.
The woman slammed against the body of the car and started to rap frantically against the passenger seat window.
'Please let me in! He's coming for me!' she cried.
The last thing Alison wanted to do was to let the woman inside her car. Alison had no idea who the woman was or where she had come from and the desperate pleas to be let in only heightened Alison's anxiety of what might happen if she did. But the woman was clearly in some sort of trouble, and Alison could not leave the woman stranded in the middle of the road with a clear conscience.
Alison unlocked her car doors and the woman scrambled into the seat next to her. The fresh pine scent of Alison's car was soon overpowered by the smell of damp earth and crushed grass. It was the smell of the great outdoors, and Alison wasn't sure that she liked it inside her vehicle.
'Do you need to go to the hospital?' asked Alison, already restarting the engine.
The woman let out a shaky breath. 'No. Please, just drive. I don't mind where you go as long as it's away from here.'
Alison shot a sideways glance at the woman. She looked to be in her early twenties, about Alison's age, and her eyes were startlingly blue, like the ocean or the sky.
'You said someone's coming for you. Do you want me to take you to a police station?'
The woman turned her head away from Alison to look out of the window and shook her head. 'They won't be able to help. Trust me.'
Alison's eyebrows shot up, as did her heart rate. 'What do you mean the police can't help? Who on earth is chasing you?'
'You don't want to know. Look, I'm sorry that I've got you involved in all of this, but I can't let him catch me again.'
'Again?' Alison repeated, her mouth dry, 'So this isn't the first time he's gone after you? I really think we should go to the police.'
'No!' the woman shouted, making Alison jump in her seat. 'If I stay in one place then he'll find me.'
'But the police can protect you…'
A hard laugh left the woman. 'Not forever, they can't. I'll have to leave the station at some point and when I do, James will be waiting for me. He's smart. He'll wait until he knows I'm alone and then that's when he'll strike. I can't continue living like this, in this game of cat and mouse. So please, just drive.'
Alison felt like she'd just been doused in ice cold water. The reality of the situation was beginning to sink in and she was trying not to let her panic show. Her mouth felt like sandpaper so she swallowed before asking, 'Did you say his name was James?'
The woman eyed Alison with a we
wary glance. 'Yes. Why?'
'This is probably going to sound strange, but I think I heard him on the radio tonight.'
The woman hit the power button on the radio before Alison could tell her otherwise. Immediately, the Midnight FM jingle blasted through the speakers.
'Welcome back from the break, ghouls and ghasts. I'm delighted to say James has called us again already! What a treat! So, spill the entrails, James, and tell us what's happening. Are you gaining or losing? We're dying to know.'
James chuckled. Alison could practically feel the vibrations of his low laughter and she shivered. 'Neither. My little mouse has made a friend, you see. I think this is going to be interesting.'
The woman killed the radio and cursed loudly. She looked at Alison with a face full of guilt. 'I am so sorry, but listen, we can both get out of this alive. We just have to keep moving.'
Tears were beginning to form in Alison's eyes and she hated herself for crying but she couldn't stop the waterworks. She did not want to die, not that night or any other night until she herself was as old as the residents of the care home that she looked after. She didn't want to make national headlines by being murdered by some creep.
'I'm going straight to the police station.' She said firmly.
The woman sighed in exasperation. 'I told you that there's no point. Going there would be a death sentence. We might as well hand James our heads on a plate! It's better we go to the coast.'
Alison was beginning to feel irate. Why on earth did the woman think it was a good idea to head for the coast? It was at least a three hour drive and it was the dead of night. What good could possibly come of going there? Alison began to wonder if the woman was part of some elaborate prank, set up by Midnight FM to scare the life out of unsuspecting late night commuters. Well, it was certainly having the right effect if that was the case.
'What's your name?' asked Alison.
The woman furrowed her brows. 'I'm Lily.'
'And where are you from, Lily?'
'I'm originally from London. Why?'
'So you're saying that James chased you all the way from London? You ran all the way from London by foot?'
Lily snorted. 'Not in one go, if that's what you're asking. This isn't the first time James has chased me through the country.'
Alison groaned. She was struggling to understand Lily's thought process. A psycho was apparently chasing her all through England but she was refusing to seek help from law enforcement, or anyone else for that matter. No, she wanted to head for the coast.
'Lily, I'm sorry, but I'm struggling to understand-'
'He'll find me.' breathed Lily. She said it in a way that was so hopeless, so final, that Alison felt a new type of dread forming in the pit of her stomach. This was no prank.
'Wherever I go,' Lily continued, 'he'll find me and he'll kill me again and again. There's nothing that can stop him. I swear to God, that man isn't human.'
Alison could hear her heartbeat. She couldn't believe what she was about to ask. 'Are you saying that he's killed you before?' It came out no louder than a whisper.
From the rear-view mirror, Alison saw Lily nod her head.
'Numerous times. To him, I'm perfect. I'm the toy that can't be broken. I was half hoping that you'd run me over when I saw you on the road, to save me from him. He likes to watch me suffer. I'd end my own life if I could but that doesn't work. It has to be somebody else. The trouble is I keep coming back.'
Alison felt slightly elated when she saw that they were nearing the main road, just over half a mile to go. She had no intention of going to the coast. She was going to go to the police station whether Lily wanted her to or not. The whole situation was insane, and Alison wasn't sure where the lies ended and the truth began. She was sure that Lily was in some type of trouble, whether real or imagined, and she was certain that she had listened to a radio station that catered to the depraved, but she could not accept the suggest that not only was she was on the run from an inhuman serial murderer but that she was also harbouring his immortal victim. Surely there was a limit to how surreal life could be.
Alison made it to the main road and began to drive back to her town, Redbury. She would drop Lily off at the police station there and then she would head home and forget that this night had ever happened.
'Where are you going?' asked Lily, 'The quickest way to the coast is through the motorway.'
'I'm dropping you off at the police station.'
Lily blanched. It was amazing that she could get any paler than she already was. 'What?'
'You can explain your situation to them. I'm more than happy to back you up. We can tell them about that weird radio station too. Surely they'll find a record of it.'
Alison could feel Lily's pale blue eyes boring a hole into the side of her head, but she paid it no mind.
'You think I'm mad, don't you?' said Lily.
Alison felt her cheeks heat up. 'I just don't see why we can't seek help from the authorities.' she answered meekly.
Lily folded her arms. 'Fine.'
Alison was relieved that Lily didn't protest any further. She just wanted the nightmare to end. She couldn't wait to be back at home, in her cozy bed. It had been a long day for her at work and the night seemed to stretch on even further. The inky blackness of the sky and the lack of streetlights lining the road made it seem like they were travelling through the darkness of space itself. No other vehicles were on the road with them, which made the journey smooth but desolate.
'We're almost there.' Alison chirped once they were only a few miles away from Redbury. She did it more to break the uncomfortable silence than anything else. Lily was clearly not pleased with her decision to go to the police.
Behind them, two bright dots appeared over the horizon and the sound of a roaring engine reached their ears. Alison glanced at her rear-view mirror and saw that a motorcycle was approaching them fast.
'It's him!' cried Lily.
Alison frowned. From what she could see, the rider was wearing a helmet and was clad in all-black. There was nothing conspicuous about either the bike or the person's clothes so it could've been absolutely anybody. Alison was about to ask Lily if she was certain that it was James when she saw something long and shiny in one of the rider's hands. It was a crowbar.
She put her foot down on the pedal as soon as she saw the would-be weapon. She was going well over the speed limit and yet the motorcycle was gaining on them fast. She fought hard to keep her eyes on the road and not on the advancing threat. It would do no good if she lost focus and crashed.
Lily screeched when James finally caught up with their vehicle. He was riding alongside the car, and Alison let out a scream of her own when he used the crowbar to smash the window on Lily's side. It wasn't difficult. Broken glass began to rain down on Lily and then the crowbar hit her square in the face. Hard. The sickening sound of cartilage being broken as Lily's nose was caved in made Alison scream again, louder this time, but James wasn't done. He carried on striking Lily's face and cackled like the maniac he was while he was at it. He was the devil on wheels.
Cold air rushed inside the car from the broken window, chilling Alison to the bone, while Lily's warm blood dotted the side of her face. At that moment, the world seemed like an awful and nightmarish place. Alison could no longer keep her cool. She kept her hands firmly on the steering wheel, but her eyes slid towards James. He was raising the crowbar once again, probably to land the finishing blow on Lily's head, but Alison was having none of that. She swerved sharply to the left, banging right against James's motorcycle. With one of his hands in mid-air, the force of the impact made him lose his grip on the bike and he went flying off the seat. The bike itself skidded away and crashed against the side of the road. Alison did not stop to check whether James was dead. Her whole body felt frozen stiff as she continued to drive the car down the deserted road. She had missed the turn into Redbury, and was now heading towards the motorway.
'Lily?' Alison said softly. She used one hand to touch Lily's arm. 'Lily, I'm taking you to the hospital.'
Lily spluttered and blood and teeth erupted from her mouth, right onto the dashboard. Alison winced when she caught sight of Lily's face. It had been reduced to pulp but she was still breathing.
'No…' Lily rasped. She took one last shuddering breath and then she was silent.
'Lily?' Alison said, even though she knew that no response would come. A sob wracked her body and tears were beginning to blur her vision but she didn't dare to stop the car. Going to the police no longer seemed like a good idea, and she could not go back home. There was a dead body in her car and possibly another one strewn across like roadkill on the tarmac far behind her. She did not want to have to deal with either if she could help it, so she just kept on driving, towards the coast as Lily had suggested, and prayed that the answers she needed would come to her once she reached her destination.
Alison did not make it to the coast. She had been too afraid to stop at any petrol stations so she could only drive her car as far as half a tank full of fuel could take her. She ended up in a very scenic part of the country, within some sort of forest. Great oaks surrounded her and there was not another soul in sight. She didn't kid herself that she was alone, however. The creatures of the night could be heard singing their songs. Alison shut her eyes and went to sleep. It seemed like an impossible thing to do, given her circumstances, but she was exhausted. She hoped that sleep would be just the thing her mind needed to function properly once again, and that the light of day would illuminate what course of action she should take next. She curled up in her seat, turning away from Lily's body and the chill from the broken window, and was soon fast asleep.
Alison rubbed her eyes as she straightened up in her seat, feeling an ache in her neck and her arms from her awkward sleeping position. The sun was only just beginning to rise, and so the majority of the sky was still an inky blue-grey colour. The first thing that caught Alison's attention once she had rubbed the sleep out of her eyes was that Lily's body was gone from the passenger seat. She gasped, horrified at the sight of the empty space, and immediately got out of the car. She looked around to see if an animal had dragged the corpse outside to make a meal out of it, but the body was nowhere to be seen.
Alison was beginning to wonder if she had imagined the previous night's ordeal, but then she heard someone singing further into the woods. It sounded an awful lot like Lily, but that was impossible, because Lily was dead. Alison had seen her die with her own two eyes. Still, Alison could not ignore that voice. She followed it further into the forest, veering away from the trail, until she finally made it to a clearing in the woods in which there was a body of water running through the centre. It was a stream, and by the stream there sat a woman on a large rock with flaxen hair. She wore a filthy white dress and the soles of her feet were blackened, but she looked to be in rude health otherwise. A beautiful melody rang from her rosebud lips. She appeared to be writing something in the damp earth by her feet with a stick.
'Impossible.' Alison whispered. She tripped on the root of a tree as she took a step back and ended up on the ground.
Lily turned her head in Alison's direction, but made no move to get up. 'Ah, Alison. You're finally awake.'
'Lily. How are you alive? I saw you die.'
Lily smiled. 'I told you, didn't I? I keep coming back.'
Alison scrambled to her feet and leaned back against the trunk of a tree. She wasn't sure she could walk with how much she was shaking. She felt like jelly. Lily carried on humming as she drew more symbols into the earth with the stick.
'What about James?' asked Alison, 'Does he also "come back"? Because if he does then we really should be getting out of here. My car's run out of gas but if we walk up the trail then it might lead us somewhere where there's a phone.'
'Let me guess? You're going to call the police. Why didn't you do that last night, Alison? When you saw that I'd died?'
Alison frowned. 'I was scared. I wasn't thinking straight. Everything had happened so fast and I didn't know what to do. I just carried on driving. I think I was in shock. Anyway, what does that matter now? Let's just go.'
Lily got up from her rocky seat and turned to face Alison completely. Her lips were set into a smile and Alison got the vibe that it was meant to be condescending. 'You don't have to worry about calling the police. James is already here.'
Alison's brow wrinkled even further and she turned her head just in time to see an arrow whizzing towards her chest at an alarming speed. She was knocked back against the trunk of the tree and she cried out as she registered the pain of the arrowhead lodged into the flesh of her chest. She found herself sliding down the bark of the tree as she moaned in agony. It was unlike anything she had ever felt before.
A dark shadow fell upon her and when she looked up the masked rider stood before her with a crossbow cradled in his hands.
'Nice shot, James!' congratulated Lily in the background.
James chucked the crossbow to the ground and then took off his helmet, letting it drop to his feet. Alison sneered at him with as much loathing as she could express, but he smiled at her sweetly. It struck her how much he resembled Lily. They had the same fair hair and baby blue eyes. She wanted to give them both a piece of her mind, to shout and to scream and until her throat became sore, but it was hard to say anything with blood gurgling out of her trachea and the only sounds she could make were like those of a wounded animal.
James grabbed her by the arms and hoisted her up so that he could drag her to where Lily was waiting by the stream. He was stronger than he looked, and Alison's attempts to break free only earned her a stinging smack across the side of her head. Her ears rang like bells in response. James deposited Alison by Lily's feet, where the markings had been drawn into the ground. Alison did not recognize any of the symbols, but they filled her with even more dread. They looked like something you'd find in a grimoire, and Alison was not the type to fool around with the occult.
'I want to thank you, Alison.' said Lily, 'You've been terrific.'
'Yeah,' agreed James, 'Just the kind of person we needed. We appreciate your sacrifice.'
Alison tried to get up to make a run for it, but James kicked her back down to the ground with his hard boot. The arrow pierced deeper into her chest as a result and she cried out to the heavens above. Tears were streaming down her face and she watched the stream as it continued to flow by her, oblivious to her suffering.
'So, who shall do the honours this time, sister?' asked James.
'The both of us.' said Lily.
Alison shut her eyes and waited for the end to come. She prayed that it would be quick at the very least. To her surprise, the siblings began to chant something in a foreign tongue. It was like a prayer, or a mantra, and Alison could hear the stream beginning to hiss and splutter as if it were coming to a rolling boil. Alison chanced opening one of her eyes to see what was happening, and the thing she saw rising out of the steaming hot stream made her wish that the nefarious twins had bashed her head in with a rock instead. At least then she knew her suffering would end. But now her death was only the beginning of it.