A short story based on the image shown
from a prompt from Writers Unite! – September 2022
A short story by Lynn Miclea
Jay breathed in the brisk, cool night air, and let it out slowly. “There’s nothing like going for a walk when it’s quiet and the air is so fresh.” He smiled at Lena and ran his hand across her back. “Isn’t it nice out tonight?” Even at midnight, going for a walk with her was relaxing.
Lena moaned in agreement. “I love it out here.”
Jay glanced at his watch. “Maybe we should start heading home.”
As they ambled down the sidewalk, a hooded figure quickly scurried out of a narrow alley between buildings and then raced down the block. The hooded figure glanced around, waving a knife in the air as he ran.
Jay grabbed Lena’s hand. “Let’s get out of here.” He pulled her away from where the man was headed.
Lena surveyed the area frantically. “Where can we go? It’s midnight. All the stores are closed. I don’t feel safe here anymore.”
“I know a shortcut through a parking lot. Come on.” Jay guided her around one of the closed shops. “This way.”
As they hurried through the black paved parking lot, Lena gasped as shouting cut through the air. “What is going on tonight?”
“I don’t know. It’s usually very quiet out here. I guess not tonight.” Jay glanced around the dark lot. “Let’s keep moving.”
“We’re too visible here. I don’t like this.”
“There’s a path at the back of the lot that goes through a small wooded area and comes out in a residential neighborhood. We’ll be safer there. And then we’ll be just a few blocks from home.”
Half-way across the parking lot, the sound of shouting grew closer. Turning toward the sound, Jay saw the hooded man chasing a terrified teenager across the lot.
Jay gestured toward them. “We have to help that guy.”
“What? No! It’s too dangerous. We need to go.”
“I can’t leave him like that.”
“But that man has a knife!”
Exasperated, Jay shook his head. “There’s three of us and one of him. We have to help that kid.” He took off toward the hooded figure. “Hey! Leave him alone!” he shouted at the hooded man.
The hooded man turned and glared at Jay. “You stay out of this. This is none of your business!” He turned to the terrified teenaged boy. “Patrick, if you can’t pay me, then you pay the price!”
“No, please,” Patrick pleaded. “I don’t have that kind of money on me.”
“Then I have a surprise for you!” The hooded figure waved the knife in the air. “It’s in that shed in the corner.”
“No! Leave me alone!” Patrick glanced at Jay. “Help me! Please!”
The hooded figure stared icily at Jay. “Stay back. This has nothing to do with you.” He looked back at the boy. “I promised to deliver one more human, and you’re it.”
The teenager froze and stared at the man. “What did you say?”
The hooded man laughed. “I have delivered two others this week. You are the last one. Then I’m done.”
“No!” Jay shouted at the man. “I can’t let you do this!”
The hooded man yelled at Jay. “You stay out of this, or you’re next!” He turned back to Patrick and pointed to the shed at the back corner of the lot. “In there, kid! It’s your turn!”
Jay rushed forward and raced around the hooded man and stood next to Patrick. Jay grabbed the teenager and pulled him closer, feeling the boy’s body tremble. “Stay with me.”
Lena joined them, and the three faced the hooded man who waved the knife in the air. “Give me back the boy. I have a debt to pay.”
“No!” Jay scowled at the hooded man. “What’s in that old shack back there, anyway?”
The man snickered. “That’s where I make my payments. Want to see it?” He gave an eerie laugh. “Maybe you could be the next payment instead of the kid.”
Goosebumps rose on Jay’s arms. “You’re not taking anyone there.”
“Wanna bet? I already delivered two people. This kid is the third. You have no say in this.” He jabbed the knife toward Jay. “I have to do this. Don’t get in my way.”
Jay stepped to the side and started circling around the man. Lena and the boy scooted apart, and the three surrounded the man who now frantically turned in a circle, trying to watch all of them at once.
When the man faced the teenager and took a step forward, Jay lunged from behind and grabbed the man, holding him tightly. The man struggled, and Jay tried to hold on. The man then stomped on Jay’s foot, and Jay’s grip loosened for a few seconds. The man began to wiggle free. Jay wrestled with the man for a few more minutes and they traded punches, scrambling closer to the shed as they scuffled.
Finally, his breath ragged, the hooded man stepped back and clenched his fist in the air. “You’d better be careful. I have explosives in my pocket, and I’m not afraid to use them. You’ll all be sorry.”
Jay noticed they were now only about ten feet from the small storage shack, and he quickly rushed forward and shoved the man hard toward the shed.
The man lost his balance and stumbled backward, getting within a few feet of the shack. He suddenly shrieked. “No, you don’t understand. I can’t go there empty handed. I can’t—”
A long, scaly claw suddenly reached out from the shed, twirled itself around the hooded man, and yanked him backward to the shack’s entrance.
“NOOOO,” the man frantically yelled as the knife fell from his hand. “I have someone else for you! I have the third person you requested! You don’t want me!” His voice became garbled as he was pulled into the shed.
The man disappeared into the darkness of the shed, and his screams filled the parking lot.
Shocked, Jay gasped, and the hairs on his neck stood up. He slowly stepped back.
Lena stood next to him. “What the—”
Patrick yelped. “What was that creature? That couldn’t be real …”
Jay glanced around the parking lot, making sure they were alone. “That was not from this world …”
Lena drew in a deep breath. “And the two other people he referred to — I wonder if those people are the two in the news this past week who have been listed as missing.”
“Very possible.” Jay took another few steps back and turned to Patrick. “Are you okay?”
The teenager nodded. “Yes. He didn’t hurt me.” He gulped loudly. “You saved my life, mister.”
“I’m glad we were here. And now we need to get out of here.”
As they started turning away, a strange rumbling sound filled the air. Quickly turning around, Jay inhaled sharply and stared at the shed.
A large bulbous creature with multiple scaly claws, grasping tightly to the limp, hooded man, was lifted up through a beam of light toward a hovering craft forty feet above them.
Jay stared at the craft, numb with shock. Where did that come from? Who were these creatures?
The creature and the hooded man disappeared through an opening in the craft, and the opening then quickly closed. The rumbling noise increased, and the craft began to glide away. A few seconds later, it exploded into numerous pieces, and debris rained down, multiple chunks crashing to the ground over a wide area.
Not saying another word, Jay, Lena, and Patrick stared into the sky where the craft had been.
Finally, Jay cleared his throat. “My guess is the explosives in that guy’s pocket were ignited, either accidentally or on purpose. Maybe he did a good thing at the end and killed them all.” He shook his head. “Either way, they are now gone.”
Lena nodded. “Should we tell the police what we’ve seen? They probably wouldn’t even believe us.”
Jay turned to her. “Well, it might help them solve the cases with the missing people, if that’s what happened to them.”
“We’ll sound like fools,” Lena said quietly.
“Maybe. But they will find the debris, which will corroborate our story. There will probably be a lot of evidence around, and all of that needs to be investigated.” He shook his head. “We need to do what’s right.”
Jay turned to Patrick. “How did this guy pick you? Do you know him?”
Patrick’s face flushed. “I belong to a UFO group. I just find all of that fascinating, and everyone there shares stories and theories.” He shrugged. “Anyway, that guy was in the group a few times, but he stood out. He never really fit in, and he gave me the creeps. Now I think he was checking us out to look for recruits for whatever that creature was.”
“Were the two missing people in that group too?”
Patrick thought for a few moments. “That’s very possible. Their pictures did look familiar, but I wasn’t sure from where. I’ll have to look at their pictures again. But that would make sense.”
Jay nodded. “We need to go to the police. This could be the information they need.”
Patrick glanced around the lot and smirked. “Well, I don’t think I’ll go back to that UFO group. After this close encounter, I think I’ve had enough.”
Lena chuckled. “I don’t think I even want to go to large parking lots again, especially at night.”
“I don’t blame either of you. And I think I’ll avoid storage sheds for a while, too.” Jay laughed. “But for now, let’s go to the police and get this resolved. They need to—”
Sirens blared in the street, cutting him off. As Jay turned toward the sound, two police vehicles pulled into the parking lot. Hesitating for a few moments, Jay watched as four cops jumped out of the vehicles and ran toward the shed.
Jay pulled Lena and Patrick farther back into the shadows of the parking lot. “Stay quiet for now,” he whispered.
One of the cops stared at the shed with the door hanging half-way off. “Hey,” he shouted. “What happened to our shed?”
“And where’s that guy with the hoodie?” asked another cop. “He said he’d be here.”
“Holy—!” the first cop yelled, looking inside the shed. “Our little friend is gone. What happened?”
Another cop chimed in. “Something’s not right here. Someone got into something where they didn’t belong. This is not good. And look — our guy’s knife is here, discarded on the ground.”
Jay urged Lena and Patrick farther back in the lot. “Let’s get out of here,” he whispered. “Follow me.” He led them from the back of the lot down the short trail through the trees, and onto a residential street. “Okay,” he said to the two of them. “That ends going to the cops. We cannot mention this to anyone. Ever. Got it?”
Lena nodded, her face pale. “So the cops are in on it?”
Jay thought for a few moments before answering. “At least those four are. But we don’t know who we can trust. All I can say is, we need to keep our mouths shut. Okay?”
“Yes,” Lena and Patrick answered together.
Jay turned to Patrick. “Do you live near here? Can we walk you home?”
“No, I’m okay. I live just a few blocks from here. I’ll be fine.”
Movement got Jay’s attention, and he turned to the path they had recently followed. Looking through the wooded area, he noticed two of the cops putting up crime-scene tape around the back of the parking lot. Their voices filtered through the trees. Jay took a few steps closer to hear them better.
“The big ship was destroyed,” one of the cops said. “Did you see?”
“Yep. And I just heard from our other contact,” the other cop answered. “Our alien friend is missing from the second shed, too. It looks like they’re gone. All of them.”
“Then we’re free,” the first cop said. “We’re off the hook. We are finally rid of them and we’re released from that awful burden.”
“It’s about time. It was getting too difficult to keep up. Not to mention risky and horribly dangerous. And I’m not ashamed to say I was terrified. Now we can go back to working with the feds on this. Let’s get this area protected, and then we can contact them again, wrap this up, and finally get the case closed.”
Jay walked back to Lena and Patrick. “I guess it’s all over.”
Patrick gave a quick, nervous chuckle. “I’m still staying away from that UFO group.” He glanced at the cops and then looked back at Jay. “Well, I guess I’m gonna go now. Bye, guys. Thanks again.” He turned and ran down the street.
Jay grabbed Lena’s hand. “Are you okay?” She nodded, and Jay pursed his lips. “Come on, it’s time to go home.” They turned and headed down the residential street.
Lena’s voice was quiet. “Is it really over?”
“Yes, and I hope I never see anything like that again.” Jay shook his head. “And no more late nights out. I’m getting too old for this.”
Copyright © 2022 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.
Please visit my website here for information on all my published books. Thank you!
And visit my author page on Amazon here to see and order any of my books. Thank you!