Snakes and Pills

106 - else

The car cautiously slowed to a complete halt. The brakes and wheels creaked, begging for replacement. They had been used long beyond their intended lifetime.

The road in front of them was empty save for the one man in their path. The two young girls in the backseat chose not to look at this mysterious figure facing them. Their eyes nervously slumped towards the floorboard. Their father, however, stared dead ahead, trying to get a read on the obstacle facing them.

Finally, he clicked off the car's engine, and there was total silence. The figure standing in the middle of the road, and the three seated in the car. No one dared to speak or to even move. The occasional flurry of sand and dust from the wasteland on either side of the road was the only reminder that time was not standing completely still.

The elder of the two sisters finally broke the silence. "Daddy, you don't have to. You don't have to do this." She put her hand tightly on her father's shoulder. She continued, "It's just one man. Turn the car back on and floor it. We'll be past him in a second."

He appeared unmoved for a moment, his attention still on the figure in his foreground. He responded to his daughter in a voice hardly louder than a whisper. "No, Elle. I've got to. We don't know what's ahead of us, or if he really is the only one. And," he sighed, "If not us, then who? Should we just leave this for the next people on the road to deal with?"

"But dad, we don't even know who that might be!" Elle interjected. "They might be demons, or they might be no one at all!"

"True, true. But they might be good folk. Good folk who are less well-equipped to deal with a situation like this than we are. So that is why, that's why I must."

The conversation was enough to motivate him, and he waited no longer. He opened up his car door slowly and cautiously. From this moment, he knew every action would need to be careful and deliberate. But by now, that was basically a way of life for all of them in this place.

His daughters watched as he slinked out from the relative safety of their vehicle and shut the door behind him. They knew at this point there was no hope in arguing with him, pleading with him to come back as they had when they were younger. Rather, Elle just locked the doors, as she had been trained to do, and tried to comfort her little sister as the two of them watched on.

The man standing in the middle of the road continued to show no reaction at all to the events transpiring. It was as if he had always been here, unmoving, a statue on the median. The girls' father approach him by tracing the contour of his vehicle. He eventually found himself standing directly in front of the grill of his car.

He now stood a good two or three meters from the figure in the road, face to face. The man was wearing a black hood, and from the car, he had been unable to read anything of the obstacle's face. But now, he saw a well-worn face, with a mouth frozen in the slightest of smirks.

Though the girls in the car were worried, they were still young enough to believe that their father could handle anything. After all, they had seen him in numerous situations like this before, and he had always prevailed. They didn't know how nervous he truly was. Every time, he felt it. Past experience was of no help in times like these. He felt the weight of the sawed-off shotgun concealed on his back, and hoped that once again they could come out of this unscathed.


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