Obscura

Normally Joe pulled people over for speeding. But every once in a while, he had to stop someone for going too goddamned slow.

“Old timer?” Buzz asked. Buzz was named for his haircut, which had since grown out to a respectable length, but the name stuck. He nestled his meaty shoulder into the door and rested his head against the window, eyes shut.

“Can’t see through the windows. They’re fogged up,” Joe said. He looked at his partner, who was already halfway to dreamland. “Prob’ly old,” Joe agreed. “Old Chinese man whose wife just had a baby. Or some other such clee-shay.”

“Mm,” said Buzz. He knew when he was being mocked, and he pretended to sleep.

Joe got out of the car. The car in front was a silver VW. He flashed his tactical flashlight at the window, only got a glare. It was like the window was completely iced over. Goddamned idiots driving with icy windows. Killed more people than driving with a phone in one hand and a mickey in the other, Joe could swear. No one wanted to wait.

And yet, the other car had been driving slow. Slow like a blind man.

Joe reached the driver’s side window. It was glazed over, too. He waited a moment. The driver didn’t roll the window down. Maybe they couldn’t. Joe rapped on the window with the butt of his light–thok, thok.

What? Joe thought. No, that wasn’t the right sound. It didn’t sound hollow. Not like glass. Not like ice. He tapped again. Thok, thok. Not like solid wood. But what?

“Step out of the vehicle, please,” said Joe, backing up. He pinched the radio on his vest. “Buzz, get out here, please.”

“Worried Miyagi is gonna wipe you on and off?” crackled the radio.

“Just get the hell out here. I don’t know what…”

Joe saw the front of the windshield. It was iced over too. Not a single scraped peephole. Just a shiny white sheen.

The door wasn’t opening. Joe repeated his demand to the driver. No response. The car had been turned off–no exhaust, no rumble. It didn’t even seem warm. It couldn’t have been running long.

Buzz flanked the other side of the car. “Jesus H, how these idiots see through that?”

“Get out of the car,” said Joe. “Slowly. Show me your hands. I won’t ask again.” His dominant hand rested on his gun. The image of a gun inside the car flashed in his mind. He would have no idea. But then, they couldn’t see him either…

That was when he heard scratching.

A low, long scrape. Skritch, skritch. What the fuck was it? It sounded like a nail dragging against a rock.

“Joe,” said Buzz.

“You hear that?” said Joe. His gun was out of the holster.

“That’s me,” said Buzz. “Tried to scrape the ice off the window with the bottle opener on my keychain. Brother, this ain’t ice.”

“What?” said Joe. He could see Buzz’s head over the top of the car. Buzz was looking down, frowning.

“It’s more like… dead skin.”

Another scrape.

“Stop scratching the car!” Joe demanded. He could feel sweat under his hat from the way the wind made it chill.

Buzz said, “I’m not.”

The scratching continued, louder now. A continuous skittering, slashing noise, muffled inside the frame of the car. Joe waved at Buzz to back off and together they stepped back toward their car and aimed their guns at the VW, which shook with the force of the slashing scratches. The ice–or rather, the dried skin–slid away from the car in dusty ribbons. Joe radioed for backup, falling into procedure even though he had no idea what he was facing. He was interrupted when something burst out of the car.

It looked like a giant spear at first. A hairy black spear. But then it curled at two joints, more like a finger. Another spear punched out of the car, then another. Buzz fired, then Joe fired, and the VW broke away like an eggshell, chunk by chunk, as long insectoid limbs protruded from the vehicle. At last, the roof broke away in two pieces, and two mucus-y wings folded out. They glittered in the evening light, patterned like eyes, like two halves of a skull.

Joe kept pulling the trigger even though he was empty. He was just twitching and watching now, as the remnants of the VW cocoon crusted away and the thing inside took to the sky, flicking away white mucus, and when it became clear and free and skyward, he saw only wings spread and fluttering in the redness of dusk, and it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

 


 

 

Day 342’s three random writing prompt categories were, “A cocoon,” “Pulled over by the cops,” and, “Magical realism.”

When VW bugs evolve.

– H.

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