Branches scraped against the outside of the car and some dry leaves blew by. Jam and Mal sat in the back, each close to their own window, staring out and waiting for Mom and Dad to come back. There was what looked like a white wolf sniffing around the car but Mal said it was probably just a dog. All the doors were locked. When did Mom and Dad say they were coming back? Jam asked. For the tenth time, TWENTY MINUTES. Mal picked twenty minutes because she thought it sounded like a long time. But they really hadn’t said. Mom had said something like, Stay right here and don’t leave the car. And then their parents had left, locking the car with the keys that they took with them.
Did the wolf go away? I don’t see him.
Jam! I keep telling you, it’s a dog not a wolf! There are no wolves here!
But did he go away?
If you don’t see him, he probably went away. The sun seemed brighter as it sunk closer to the ridge and the leafless tree branches became black, spindly lace against the sky.
I’m gonna open the door and see if he’s still out there.
You better not, Jam. They said do not open the doors.
No, they did not. They just said to stay in the car. Jam unlocked his door and pulled the inside door handle.
I’m just going to shut it right away if I see him! Jam said. Mal slid over and pulled the door back shut. Mal, you’re an asshole.
They want us inside here for a reason!
I wasn’t going outside.
You better not be. They sat quietly for a while, looking out. The car was some two hundred yards from the road, in the middle of the trees.
I think I see him over there, Jam said. Where? Jam pointed at something white out among the bare trees. It seemed to be coming toward the car. They both sat side-by-side and stared. It didn’t move like a dog or a wolf. It seemed to drag lightly on the brown leaves, floating just above. The sun was lower in the sky now, touching the ridge, burning orange.
When did you say Mom and Dad were coming back? How many minutes? Jam sat completely still. Mal re-locked Jam’s door. They heard something that sounded like an animal alternately whimpering and growling very close to the car.
Mal leaned up into the front seat and opened the glove compartment. She found a corkscrew and opened it so its sharp tip pointed out. She gave it to Jam. He took it in his little hand and aimed it at the thing out his window. He watched as it hovered and slowly dragged towards them. Mal went back through the glove compartment and dug through a manual, tissues, and some pens. Then she went through the door pockets. She felt under the seats. Hey, she said. Jam looked at her without moving his head. Look what I found. She held up a small black pistol from under the driver’s seat. She smiled at Jam and he gave a weird half-smile back.
The animal noises were getting louder. It sounded like it was under the car. The sun was gone now and everything was dark grey. The tree bark blended into the leaves covering the ground. The white thing now just hung suspended in the air about twenty feet from the car. It seemed to have a white head shape and wispy fabric flowing underneath. Mal held the pistol with both hands now. She aimed it through the glass. Roll down your window, she whispered. Jam looked at her with wide eyes. Roll it down just for a second. She cocked the gun. With one hand still tight on the corkscrew, Jam rolled his window down a crack. As soon as it was about a quarter down Mal fired and it sounded like a bomb had gone off. Now the white thing was right up against the car, undulating folds all around them, streaked with blood, and there was a dull banging on the roof. Roll it up! Mal shouted. He rolled the window up but the glass had a spidery crack going through it now. The thumping got louder on the roof.
Then it felt like the car was moving. It bumped around and they heard the wheels breaking twigs and branches as they rolled. Mal tore the tissue from the glove compartment and they both stuffed pieces in their ears. Then she and Jam huddled together. She fired the gun up at the roof where the pounding was coming from. BANG BANG BANG!
The white fabric blew away from the windows and it was now just black night outside. A dark liquid dripped down from the bullet holes in the roof. The car radio began to play a commercial jingle. But something didn’t sound right about the commercial. The singing gave way to a hacking cough and then barking and snarling and static. We’ll go out and find where Mom and Dad went, said Mal. They stared at each other, neither one moving. Then she took Jam’s hand. He held his corkscrew in the other.
Mal unlocked her door and they stepped out onto the dry leaves together. Don’t worry Jam, Mal said, holding up the gun. I know there’s more bullets left. The dry leaves crackled as they walked. They headed in the direction of the road.