Eric fumbled with the buttons on the arm rest of the stolen Nissan. A blast of humid night air hit him. It smelled like charred beef.
“Snow Bunny, can you hear me?” Adrenaline shot his voice up a few octaves.
“Loud and clear, Earth Worm. What the hell happened?” She jumped off the bed and pressed her forehead against the hotel window, searching the Miami skyline as if she could find him.
“You said there were no guards!” Glancing in the rear view mirror had become his latest tick as he navigated the short grid of turns toward the highway. “FYI, there were two freakin’ guards, Snow Bunny! Two!”
“Shit.” Long bit of silence. “Sorry. But, you got out with the samples, right?”
Eric slipped the cool-pack full of vials from his black canvas jacket, tossing them onto the seat beside him.
“Affirmative.” Sarcasm and fear. He cranked up the air. “I think someone’s following me.”
“Earth worm, listen to me.” Her voice was measured, painfully calm. “Eric…the hard part is over. Now you just have to get that evidence to the Sun’s reporter. He’s there waiting. Just keep driving, that’s all you have to do. You know how important this is. You’re the messenger; this has to get out to the public.”
He wiped at his nose, checked the rear view mirror and jerked the wheel hard right, swerving over two lanes and jumping onto I-75 at the last minute. The suspected black van didn’t make it.
“Yeah, the messenger of death.” And then louder, so she could hear him, “getting onto Alligator Alley now.”
“Okay. Good. Anyone behind you?”
“Negative. You know what they’ll do if they catch me, right?”
“They won’t. Just drive. One hour and it’ll be out of your hands. We’re doing the right thing. They are monsters. And Eric…”
“Don’t let those vials break.”
He cranked up the radio so he couldn’t hear the pounding in his chest or the blood rushing through his head. It was almost three in the morning so traffic was light, but still, every time lights appeared behind him, he held his breath until they passed.
The road was a long straight ribbon of blacktop cutting through the Everglades. Metal fencing bordering both sides of the highway flew by in intermitten flashes. He suddenly longed for a couple short months ago when all he had to worry about was passing his Chem. II final.
Ding ding. Eric moved his attention from the road to the dashboard. A tiny red light glared at him.
“What the…?” His heart did a flip flop and almost stopped. “C..c..come in. Snow Bunny? Angela!”
“What, what’s wrong? Are they behind you?”
“I’m almost out of gas.” No response. “Did you hear me?”
“You stole a car that was on empty?!”
“I didn’t exactly have time to check.”
“There are no gas stations on Alligator Alley.”
“Okay, go as far as you can and then…you’ll have to walk. I have to think.”
Eric slowed the car down to 55 mph. He had heard this was the most gas efficient speed. Things were becoming very surreal and he was getting numb from the terror, feeling nothing but the sensation of a cold sweat.
And then he heard it. The unmistakable thump thump thump of a chopper. He knew this was no coincidence. They were looking for him. The car began to putter. Slamming his hands on the steering wheel, he eased it off the road and brought it to rest close to the fence. He killed the lights.
“Angela?” Static. “Angela!” Were they blocking the radio signal? Now he really did feel paranoid. He ripped off the headset and hid it under the seat. Maybe he could save her, at least. Let them think he was acting alone.
As a spotlight from the helicopter came into view, sweeping back and forth like two wicked, alien eyes, his face became slick with tears. This was not going to end well for him.
Grabbing the cool-pack, he opened the door and began to run. When he was out of breath, he said a little prayer and scaled the fence. The top part, being angled down, was a bit difficult, but he soon found himself crash landing with a thud in the tall grasses beside the waterway.
The chopper was close now, but within a few minutes he heard something even more terrifying. Squealing tires, car doors…dogs. He collapsed against the fence. It was over. They would find him and make him disappear. After all this, he had failed.
Two eyes, glowing the color of moonlight appeared in the dark waters before silently submerging again.
He suddenly knew what he had to do. This had to make headlines one way or another. A few infected gators would do the trick. They couldn’t stop that in time to cover it up. He ripped open the cool pack with his teeth and one by one, unsealed the vials and drank them.
Fighting the blinding pain now coursing through him, Eric slid forward until his feet, then his legs and finally his arms were submerged in the warm, murky waters.
He felt the gator only as a violent jerk on his leg, then a wicked roll into the darkness.
Oh this left me breathless! And scared!
Dialogue moved the story along very well. And the imagery conjured by the last sentence was vivid.
Very nice job!
“There are two kinds of people who sit around all day thinking of ways to kill people; serial killers and mystery writers.”
Would the compound disolve him? Would the alligator leave him alive and wounded, only to face a more gruesome death in the hands of The Man? Would he ever pass his Chem II final?
Man… This guy is screwed. And it’s all your fault 🙂
LOL, that would be a great comic into to a short film of this! And I love that quote, must get it on a t-shirt.
Shannon, you have a way of dropping us off the cliff without ever letting us experience the final impact. 🙂
Having driven Alligator Alley all alone, I shuddered at the red blinking light. Wonderful suspense!
So you know the terror of that thought first hand. Awesome. 🙂
Fantastic! The pace, the action, the questions left unanswered. Loved every second.
I LOVE this one! Builds up, keeps going, and leaves you hanging! PERFECT!!!!!!
Excellent story, very exciting read – love that you included Alligator Alley as requested 🙂
I find the concept of infected gators terrifying!
Thanks for the idea, took me outside my box. 🙂
Fabulous read. I loved it. Your horror is stunning and worth every minute.
Oooh great ending and a very enjoyable read
Yay Alligator Alley 😀
You did a fantastic job creating the tension and stress of Earth Worm’s chase.
I’m not sure if I should or shouldn’t hope that the virus (or whatever it was) can hop species from humans to gators…
Thanks for planting the idea with your comment, it was fun to write.
Shannon, so much excitement! Adrenalin pounded on this one. Very curious about the vials, who was after Earthworm, how he went from college kid to courier. Part of a larger story? Sure hope so… Peace, Linda
Wow a hell of a rollercoaster ride ending in sharp teeth. nicely done.
Loved the names”Earthworm” and “Snow Bunny”
Slam! What an excellent story. I was eating leftover holiday pin-wheels so fast, I didn’t even tatse them.
Absolutely awesome story!
I want the rest of the story Shannon! Uhh, please. 🙂 Fantastic description of the scene and the action is very well paced. Great read!
This story kicks ass, and there are few things as frightening as a hungry gator.
Wow, Shannon! I couldn’t read it fast enough! Excellent!
Really strong writing, Shannon. I’m new to your work…is it part of a longer piece?
Nope, Kim…what you see is what you get, you fill in the blanks. 🙂
My heart was racing… I am not going to sleep well tonight.
Everyone said it already 🙂 But I too loved the code names you gave these hacks. Excellent suspense and a very well written car chase scene. Very enjoyable 🙂
Thanks, Lily- With the names I was trying to show that they started their mission very naively (almost as a game) but got in over their heads quickly.
Yike! Terrific pace in this one. I had thought, till the end, that “Alligator Alley” was just a cute name. Not so much, as it turned out.
I wondered about the brief switch to Angela’s POV early in the story. Really needed?
I loved the back and forth dialogue. It heightened the tension very well. More so when it stopped and Eric couldn’t get through to “Snow Bunny”. And I loved the code names. Well done.
Strong opening, definite sense of place and purpose. The level of detail in the prose really supported the imagery, and well manicured sentences kept this moving along at a perfect pace.
Whoa that story flew by. Pretty cool idea.
Getting eaten by gators while dying of a virus is better than being captured by mobsters? It feels so Buddhist some how.
Seriously, this could build to something.
Great code names.
…hmmm. From November 13 to December 4, there seems to be a huge gap in the writing…
What happened to that guilt-ridden work ethic of yours, you bum!
Liked it, and think it would make for a great longer piece, as well. Kudos.
Very interesting. If history teaches us anything, the ‘gator will probably survive and become immune to the “deadly potion.” Since ‘gators like to marinate their meals a few days, all the other aquatic beings will probably fall prey to whatever the potion is and the ‘gators will have more things to eat.
Then again….maybe the ‘gators were already infected……