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Carter gripped the bottom of his leather seat desperately. He swallowed nervously as the car weaved through lanes of traffic on the freeway. Every bump and irregularity of the road sent a jolt up his arms.

He tried to take a deep breath without being obvious. He shut his eyes for a moment, but that didn’t help. Suddenly, he was being pushed farther back into his seat. Carter looked at the speedometer– the dial was pushing 100 mph. Ian was grinning, his leg pressing further down on the gas pedal. Carter’s heart dropped to his stomach and a sense of impending doom wrapped around him, suffocating him.

Could he grab the overhead bar for support? That’d feel safer… but no. Natalie was sitting right next to him. She’d notice, and that wouldn’t do Carter’s chances any good. A boiling sense of anger bubbled up inside of him for the driver.

But then, just as suddenly as it had started, the car slowed down to a more comfortable cruising speed. Carter’s muscles relaxed, leaving him feeling shaken and tired as if he’d just climbed a whole rock wall. He noticed there was rain pounding on the roof of the car now. When had that started?

Ian was laughing with Bree, the girl with the red hair in shotgun. They liked the insane speed– somehow. Carter looked over at Natalie. She met his eyes, revealing the grin on her face. Carter offered a weak smile that probably resembled a grimace more than anything and turned away from her gaze.

Maybe going out tonight wasn’t the best idea.

Carter had an essay to finish by the end of the weekend, and probably should be studying for the physics test. He’d already done poorly on the first one…

And this death car was not exactly helping with his stress.

But Natalie had invited him… so maybe it wouldn’t be all bad. The others in the car were talking and Carter shook himself out of his thoughts to listen in.

“Scariest thing that’s happened to me? Oh, I don’t know if you wanna hear this one,” Ian was saying. He had been away at college in Washington for the last year and had just returned a week or two ago; Bree and Natalie had been friends with him before he left their high school, but Carter had been new in town back then. He didn’t even remember Ian.

“Come on, you’ve gotta tell us,” Bree pleaded in her nasal, high-pitched voice. Natalie nodded and pushed at Ian’s chair from behind. “Answer the question!” She said teasingly.

Ian was quiet for a second. The silence seemed to stretch just a moment too long, just enough for the laughs to die down and for the talking to stop. Then he began:

“There was this buddy of mine who said he knew this lady that would fix up my car for cheap– I was looking ‘cause some idiot decided to scratch up mine without ever leaving a note,” He started, staring at the road. He didn’t seem to be very focused on it, though. Carter watched the freeway, catching his breath every time the cars ahead braked. The rain wasn’t helping.

“He sent me her number, so I called her at the end of the day. She didn’t pick up. My buddy, Alex, shrugged when I told him– he said it was no biggie because he still had her address, too. It was close by anyways, so I decided to check it out,” Ian continued. He hesitated for a second, licked his lips and went on. The others leaned forward, captured by the story. Carter tried his best not to roll his eyes.

“I went on the next saturday afternoon and found it tucked away between these two bigger apartment buildings. It was a small house. I remember there was a car in the driveway, so I thought someone would be home. I walked up to the front door and knocked– but then the door just swung open,” He said, and Carter noticed his white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel. The girls let out a squeal. Natalie covered her mouth with a hand.

“Noooo…” Bree trailed off, pulling into herself. “Like… by itself?”

Ian nodded.

Carter’s first reaction was to reject the ridiculous story, but for some reason the way Ian told it kept him on edge. It wasn’t real. Carter knew that, but still… the dark, rainy sky outside their car seemed a lot more ominous now.

“Creepy, I know. I wasn’t sure what to do then, so I just started backing up, but then I saw her. The lady was standing at the end of the hallway past the door. Except something wasn’t right. Something about her eyes, and the way she twitched… it wasn’t human. I kept looking, and she just started smiling. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen, I swear. Then she started walking towards me, and I finally booked it out of there,” Ian finished.

“There’s no way,” Natalie said, shaking her head and smirking. Bree seemed to believe him. Ian glanced back at the two in the backseat and waved his hand agitatedly.

“No, trust, it happened. I was scared out of my mind for the rest of the day,” Ian tried, and he did his best to look honest. It wasn’t a half bad attempt.

“What was wrong with her? What happened?” Bree asked, leaning forward again. Ian looked away from the road and answered.

“It was some demon inside her. Something from another place, trying to use her body. I know it.”

Carter felt a shiver come over him.

Suddenly Ian swore and the car lurched to the right. Carter was thrown to his left into Natalie; Bree yelped in her high pitched voice and the car swerved back to its course. Carter’s heart had nearly burst from his chest– and it was only beating faster because he realized he had fallen onto Natalie.

He pulled himself back up, and everyone looked to the driver.

“Almost missed the exit,” Ian apologized sheepishly. Bree shook her head and took a deep breath. This guy…

Carter was ready to jump out of the car.

They arrived at the houseparty several long minutes later, after the rain had stopped. It was up in the hills; the roads were twisty and the houses were far apart, and big. It felt more secluded.

Ian didn’t share any more of his stories on the way there. The car seemed empty without his constant dialogue, but Bree and Natalie did their best to fill the void with talk of the event they were headed to.

The party was being thrown by one of Bree’s friends. She had invited Ian, then told Natalie to come along, who then invited Carter. He recognized some of the names Bree listed who were also coming– the big-shots in classrooms and the well-known girls around high school. Carter was getting a headache just thinking about it… which was unfair, he knew. He had to give the party a chance.

The driveway was long and ostentatious, with tall plants on all sides. Ian parked on the right side pretty far back– there were already a number of cars there. Carter swung open his door and practically kissed the ground. He stood up and stretched, beyond grateful to be out of the death car but dreading the return trip. 

Maybe he could fake a stomach ache and his mom could pull through…

“Sorry about Ian’s driving– he wasn’t that bad before college, I promise,” Natalie remarked, and Carter turned around to see her on his side of the car. He laughed and shook his head. “It’s all good. I’m just glad we made it in one piece.”

She grinned and Carter got to see her tiny dimples. She had such dark, pretty eyes… Natalie pointed to the massive house they were about to enter.

“Let’s hope this is worth the car ride,” She exclaimed and they walked to the front doors. Ian and Bree were waiting.

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