The SUV went into the ditch this time, and Tilman fought against the wheel. He got the SUV stopped. His heart pounded in his chest. He felt like his head might exploded and he was breathing hard. He sat there for a while, he wasn’t sure how long, before he pried his fingers off of the steering wheel.
He grabbed the gun off the floor and stuck it in his pocket, He checked the mirrors and look around him. He didn’t see anyone or anything around. He opened the door and stepped out into the snow.
The driver’s side tire was the one that had gone. Tilman squatted and looked at it. The problem was that there was a six inch long shard of black glass in it. Tilman pulled on it, and it sliced right through his leather gloves. He swore and shook his hand, and flicked red blood across white snow. It was obsidian, he thought. It was not an accident.
He pulled the gun out and pushed his back against the SUV. He didn’t see anything in the snow. No, that was wrong. He saw too much in the woods. Through the snow, there a thousand shadows and Tilman saw something in every one. He was motionless, blood dripping into the snow. He listened and heard nothing but the wind. It sounded like whispers.
Tilman moved around to the other side, where the SUV was tilting into the ditch. He didn’t like what he saw there. The wheel was pressing against the wheel well. The axle was bent. He stared at it for a second and then he kick the wheel. Again. Again. It was stupid but it felt good. He heard something move behind him.
He spun and nearly slipped, caught his balance against the SUV. He saw snow sliding down the bank. He aimed the gun into the shadows. He thought he saw something moved and he squeezed the trigger.
There was more movement off to his right, and he jerked the gun over. Fired again. In the snow, there was no echo, the sound lost in white. He kept the gun trained and listened. Nothing.
“I know you’re there, motherfucker!”
He backed around the SUV, keeping his back protected. He slid back inside and locked the doors. Shit. Shit. Shit. He turned on his cellphone and hoped. No signal. Naturally.
He peeled the glove off of his hand and looked at the cut. It was deep and red and as soon as he started looking at it, the wound throbbed. He frowned and wrapped it up with a handkerchief. He looked out the window at the night.
Tilman wasn’t used to indecision. One of the reasons that he’d been successful was that he was able to decide instantly. He was ahead of the pack. When he hesitated, he lost. He had two options; he could stay here in the truck and wait, or he could try to walk to the next town.
The decision was made for him when it crashed into the window. The window shattered out of the way, and all Tilman saw was teeth and fur. He kept pulling the trigger until the slide kicked back. No more bullets. He squeezed the trigger anyway.
He dropped the clip out and fumbled putting another in. Tilman had practiced with the gun all year. It should have been easy, but his hands were shaking. He tried to steady himself and slid the clip. He released the slide. Snow blew in from the outside.
Tilman got out of the SUV, sweeping the area with his gun. He walked around to the other side of the SUV and looked for whatever it was that had come through the window.
There was nothing there. There were some pieces of broken glass, there was snow and there was blood. Tilman tried to remember what he’d seen. A dog? No. No, it had been a wolf, or something like a wolf. Something huge and dark.
Tilman stood over the place where a dead animal should have been, and looked into the woods. He could feel eyes watching him, but there was nothing to see but shadows.
Something howled, something that sounded too close to human but not human at all. Something close. A chorus of howls joined it, and every one of them sounded close, Cold sweat ran down his back.
George Tilman ran.