A story for a TerriblemindsA Second Game of Aspects, flash fiction challenge.

I pulled: Lovecraftian, In a Vehicle Traveling Down the Highway, with A Robot.

And that resulted in…

The early morning of September 15th found me as the sole traveler upon the stretch of road between the campus of North Umbridge College and the town of Clarksville. What time it was I cannot say as fatigue had addled my remaining senses and my watch — a present from the other faculty of the College — had been misplaced some days earlier. At that unknown hour my meager state was such that it took my concerted efforts to keep the automobile’s wheels between the faded white lines of the pavement’s rain slicked surface.

Twenty three dark miles lay between the places twixt I journeyed. The sparely lit distance darkened all the more by the heavy clouds that leaked a slow drizzle upon the world below. In such gloom the headlamps of my vehicle seemed weak at best and reduced my world to the watery globes they cast before me.

Dark as it was I don’t know how I spotted him, but as I passed mile post seventeen I saw a shape alongside the road ahead. A sheen of some sort caught my eye, though my lamps had not yet reached the shape. As I pulled closer the shape resolved itself through the grey showers to the size and shape of a man in a dark long coat and brimmed hat. If he was walking along the road or simply standing there, I cannot say, but I knew there was nowhere for miles around where he would find shelter. In either case he looked cold and wet and so I slowed to a stop as I came along side him.

I presented the offer of a ride through an opened window, but he did not respond. There was no indication he had heard me at all. His collar was pulled up such that it almost met the brim of his hat and I could not tell if he was even looking in my direction. After a minute filled with the patter of rain and the rumble of an old engine, he pulled open the passenger door and took a seat beside me. His entry was marked by splattered water, engine fumes and the squealing creak of hinges and old springs. I winced against all three, but then the door was closed and I pulled back out on to the roadway.

He was tall and narrowed shouldered, but even seated next to him I could not make out his face.

Some minutes elapsed, the mile posts that slid past the only markers of our travel or the passage of time. Eventually I ventured a comment on the poor weather, but this evoked no response. The only sound emanating from the seat beside me was the slow drip of fat drops falling from the brim of his hat. The sound of these steady drops struck some minute switch within me and only then did I realize how true that observation had been. With a tremble I held my breath and discovered that only the dripping remained. No other sound filled the space behind the windscreen. No breath stirred the air.

It was at this moment my passenger turned his head to me, and I heard a squeal of metal. The dim light cast back by my headlamps fell across his face, and met not a cheek but a curve of polished metal. My lungs seized tight, trapping any breath deep within. Of features he had only one and it was circular, and set centered at the fore of his skull. A dark space yawning beneath his still dripping hat.

I was suspended there, utterly out of time, or place, or sensation, or thought. In the darkness was something, barely seen, but visible against the deeper darkness within his skull. A lightbulb or perhaps a candle seen from far off, but so distant that it must be miles away. And the light was not alone. There were things moving around the light. Of their form I cannot say, save that they were only small due to their great distance from me. Of their great size there was no doubt though they moved with a fluidity not seen away from the sea. It was then that my eyes saw it was not rain falling from his hat at all, but a dark ichor of some alien substance as it wicked from the pool that was his face along the brim of his hat.

A drop fell and then another. My heart may have fallen with them, but the light went out. A blinking, a closing, and I fell as well.

I awoke to a flashing light and a voice calling me from far away. From the roadway, for my automobile was sideways in a ditch beside it. Such a terror arose in my breast that I turned quickly, immune to the pains in my body, to find the seat beside me empty. Relief might have rushed through me then save that my eyes fell upon the stain of a dark pool across the passenger’s seat. A stain that my hand lay upon.

Quickly I snatched it away as my mind babbled that it was merely oil extruded by a damaged engine, but the thought rang false. Oil did not itch as that substance itched while it clung to my skin. I tried to wipe the rain from my eyes with my other hand only to have my fingers come away black from the tarry tears that were sliding down my cheeks. Perhaps I might have screamed then, but my mouth was full of a dark torrent that poured down my chest when I parted my lips.

In the end the scream that mixed with the sound of the coming storm was the one of the good samaritan who stood outside my automobile and watched drops of rain fall into a black pool where a driver should have sat. A black pool where shapes moved as of large creatures far away, coming closer.