Friday, January 7, 2011

Until Dawn - 1

The full moon made Billy Sun nervous. He tried hard not to think of the thing in the box, but knowing it was back there made cold sweat run down his back. He didn’t want to be out here, he especially didn’t want to be driving in this weather and he definitely didn’t want to be responsible for the box. But he was, and he kept his hand on the wheel and tried to keep the truck on the road.

He was barely going fifteen miles an hour, crossing the mountain at a crawl. He could see, at best, maybe fifty feet ahead, and at some points he was essentially making an educated guess at where the road actually was. The plows hadn’t come through, and every turn felt like he was in danger of sliding off the road.

It wasn’t that Billy was uncomfortable driving in bad conditions, or even that he was bad at driving under stress. He’d spent the last four years driving Humvee around the desert while below tried to alternately shoot him or blow him up. Stress was okay, under normal circumstances, but this was different.

For one thing, there was absolutely no way that moving it, under these conditions, was even half way advisable. Most of the time, it was harmless, or as close to harmless as something like that could reasonably get. But tonight, well, tonight was not a good night to be doing what Billy was doing, but he didn’t have much choice in the matter. It had to be moved, and it had to be moved now.

Billy’s father, Big Bill, had barely managed to get the box moved out of the basement before the house burned. The box had been there, under the watchful eye of the Sun men, for as long as anybody in Billy’s family could remember.

But one of the consequences was that the house didn’t get as many upgrades as it should, and it had an electrical system cobbled together by the dubious talents of Billy’s grandfather and his uncles. It was only a matter of time before something bad happened, and it was just bad luck that something bad happened when the moon was full.

Billy wiped sweat from his brow and shook the cramps out of his fingers. He was squeezing the wheel hard enough that he expected it to have grooves where his fingers were. He knew that this wasn’t helping his ability to get his cargo from point A to point B, but he couldn’t help it. He had the fight the urge to glance through the tiny window into the back of the panel truck and make sure the box was where it was supposed to be.

The biggest problem was the snow. Billy wasn’t sure how much snow qualified as a blizzard, but he figured that this was probably there. The thing in the box was most dangerous at night, and he really, really didn’t want to be traveling with it, but when the snow started coming down, he didn’t have much of a choice.


It was all about balancing risk. Billy’s Dad insisted that Billy stay to the background, where Billy would be lucky if he passed another car at all. This minimized the chance of an accident and damage to the box. It also, to Big Bill’s way of thinking, meant that if the unthinkable happened, that the box was opened and it got out, that the number of people at immediate risk would be minimized as well.

Which had all sounded reasonable enough to Billy when his dad, still sucking oxygen in a hospital bed, had told him what he needed to do. Billy had checked his route, double checked the truck and triple checked the weather. But once he was on the road, he didn’t know.

The snow was completely unexpected. Billy figured that once he got done with this particular fool’s errand, he might well have to find the weatherman who said that it would be a crisp clear night in southern Pennsylvania and force feed him his own teeth.

As it was, the snow meant that Billy was committed to the haul. If he pulled over, he was not going to be able to get out again, and that would be a problem. His cell service in this area was spotty at best, and he figured it would go out entirely once he crested the mountain. He had to ride it out and hope for the best. But that didn’t mean he had to be happy about it.

The snowfall was getting heavier, and Billy slowed the truck down even more, gearing down to let the engine take some of the strain of holding back. He tried to keep his mind on the road and not think about the steep grade on the other side. He’d tried turning the radio on, but every time he did, he kept imagining he heard something from the back. He wished his dad was here. Or anyone else. He didn’t want to be driving, and he definitely didn’t want to be driving alone.

The deer hopped down off the hill and skittered in the snow, black eyes reflecting in Billy’s headlights. Billy hit the breaks, not hard enough to skid, not really, but he felt the back end of the truck fishtail.


He tried to drive into the skid, but the downhill grade and the snow was preventing it. The deer leapt gracefully off the road as the truck slid slowly sideways. He fought the wheel and imagined he heard the chains holding the box in place strain.

He lost it. The steering turned uselessly in hand as the truck slid over the bank. There’s was a moment, just a half a heart beat, where the truck was balanced, but then Billy was tumbling. Everything spun and there was just a blur of slowed down images, time speeding up and slowing down, before it stopped.

Billy’s head hurt. He wasn’t sure how long he sat there before his fingers touched his head and found blood. The window beside him was gone, and Billy head dripped sluggish red into the snow on the ground. He released the seat belt and slid down into his side.

The gun. He needed the gun. The truck was lying on its side, smashed up against a tree, well down over the bank. Everything in it had been tossed and Billy Sun really need to find the damn gun. Where was the fucking gun.

It took him a few seconds to feel the reassuring weight of it in his pocket, He pulled it out, flipped out the cylinder and looked at the bullets. Six shots, four speed loaders in the pocket if they hadn’t fallen out.

Billy kicked the front windshield until it dropped out into the snow. It didn’t make a sound. Nothing did, the world wrapped in falling snow and silence. Billy could hear his heart beating in his head. The autopilot was on. The box, He needed to check the fucking box. His body was working in its own years of army training and a life time of being a Sun kicking in, but somewhere deep inside, Billy Sun was praying.

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