Dani drove along the deserted road. At four in the morning there was never much traffic. Lately it was one of the things that Dani liked about opening the gas station every morning. It gave her time to think. This morning was her first day back at work in almost a week. The last few days had been dark and bleak, leaving her gasping for air as she tried to find a reason to keep going, a reason to live. Dani felt lost. Her world came crashing down like shattered glass around her feet when her mother died suddenly. Tears welled in her eyes, blurring her vision, as she remembered their last conversation.
“Dani,” her mother had said into the phone, “you know that I love you and that I am so very proud of you.” She paused a moment. “But you need to decide what your purpose is.” Dani listened to the words her mother spoke. “You can’t keep living like this.”
Dani hung her head, keeping the phone to her ear. She knew her mother meant well, but sometimes Dani was annoyed by her constant nagging.
“I know Ma, I know,” was all she could say. “I gotta go, love you, Ma.” She had no idea those would be the last words she spoke to her mother. The following morning she would receive a phone call from the neighbor while at work that her mother had been rushed to the hospital. Dani didn’t make it there in time, her mother died from a heart attack.
Dani hung on to that last conversation in her mind, trying not to let the memory wander off. Her hands trembled as she wrapped her fingers tightly around the steering wheel. Her heart pounding in her chest. Pulling her rusted Ford over to the side of the road she sat there staring out the window, wiping the tears away she noticed that the fog was getting thicker.
“That’s weird,” she said out loud, her voice booming in the air. The fog covered the road. She leaned closer to the windshield trying see the road in front of her. The lights from the store gleamed through, pulling out onto the road she slowly drove toward the parking lot.
The parking lot was wider than that of most gas stations, allowing for the larger trucks to make their way into the lot. A diesel pump sat off the far left, while the other eight gas pumps stood in a line parallel to the front of the building. The building had an A-shaped frame. A sign, reading 'Field’s Market,' was attached to the middle. A police cruiser was making the rounds as they usually do, Dani waved at the officer before backing her car into the spot furthest from the front door and watched as the police car left the lot.
Grabbing her keys, she walked over to the door. A rustling sound came from behind her. She stopped short of the door, her body trembling as she stood there. Her mind raced with fear. Slowly turning around, she fully expected to see something or someone behind her. The fog was thicker with only the tops of the gas pumps visible. The smell of rotten eggs permeated around her, causing her to gag. 'What is that smell?' She tried to shake the feeling that she was being watched. Turning back to the door she unlocked it and entered the store, locking it as she closed it. She looked around the parking lot again, still feeling eyes on her.
Dani moved around the store preparing to open for the day. Glancing at the time on the register she noticed the time 4:25 AM.
"Shit," she muttered to herself. She finished counting the cigarettes when she saw something move outside. The feeling that someone was watching her lingered. The fog was not as thick as it was when she first showed up. She could now see the ground and her attention on the pump at the very end. The last couple months it had been printing the receipt paper with letters, numbers and symbols. It looked as though the whole roll had printed out. She decided that she would go retrieve the paper in a little bit. The thought of someone being out there made her nervous.
Dani was in the office when she heard the door beep. Walking out to the register she noticed one of their regular customers.
"Good morning! How are we today?" she asked.
The woman smiled at her, "Good morning!" she replied, tucking her blonde hair behind her ear as she scanned the gum shelves in front of the counter. "I am doing good, how are you? I heard about your mom and I am so sorry."
"Thank you, it’s been..." Dani trailed off, as she glanced outside, the fog had picked up again and had a tint of purple color to it. "A little foggy out there this morning though." Trying to change the subject.
The woman placed a pack of gum on the counter. "Yes, very hard to see." She pulled her money out of her pocket as Dani rang up the gum and handed her two-dollar bills. "I am on my way to Flatsburg today. So hopefully it clears up soon. I hate driving in this."
Dani counted back her change. "I hope so too. You have a nice day and drive safe." The woman waved at Dani as she exited the store. She watched the fog move closer to the woman as she walked toward her car. The door beeped as a man walked in.
“Good morning.” Dani said, her eyes shifting away from the window.
The man headed for the counter asking for a pack of Marlboro’s.
“The fog is crazy out there today,” he said as Dani took his money and placed it in the register. Her eyes caught movement outside, causing her to look up toward the window. “What the hell?” the man said moving closer to the window.
A figure floated in the fog. Its head was flat in the front, the top extended out about four inches ending in a curved point behind it. Six long, purple appendages stretched out from the torso where the arms should be. The body appeared transparent with the same purplish hue as the fog. Instead of legs the creature had a flowing tail of purple color. There were no eyes that Dani could see, a gaping hole where the mouth should be. It hung in the air between pump four and five. The woman stopped and looked at the figure. Dani saw the terror in her face as the woman tried to run back in the store.
The creature let out this loud screech, shattering the windows inward. Dani and the man both ducked down to the floor, trying to avoid the shattered glass. The glass in the cooler doors bowed out before shattering to the floor. Dani heard a moan from the man and turned to look at him, a piece of glass lodged in his neck. Dani tried to help him, but there was so much blood. His eyes closed and his arms fell to his side. She tried to hold back the tears. 'What the fuck is going on?' she thought. I can’t die like this too.
Reaching up to the counter Dani tried to grab the phone. A scream echoed in the air and she raised herself up to see outside. The woman was hanging in the middle of the fog, her screams pierced Dani’s ears. Dani could see the woman’s face as the creature held her by the throat, the woman wriggled back and forth trying desperately to set herself free. The woman looked at Dani as she struggled to break free before bursting into flames. The smell of flesh burning made its way into the store. Sitting back down Dani covered her face with both hands and tried to think of something to do. Hot tears stung her cheeks as they fell down her face.
An explosion outside made Dani look up from the floor to see the gas pumps flying in the air, one by one. A large ball of fire shot straight up in the air, hitting the top of the canopy before darting back down to the ground. Dani remembered the stop button to shut off the pumps, quickly she reached up from the floor grabbing the stop button and pulling the red knob out. But it was already too late, the gas had already started a raging fire, engulfing the parking lot. The creature floated through the flames, entering the store through the broken window.
Dani noticed the cooler door was open a little. She wondered whether she could make it there quick enough. She thought about her mother and wondered what she would tell her to do. Her entire life came through as pictures in her mind, learning to ride a bike, her first dance, her graduation, her mother was always there to give her advice, to tell her which way to go. Now Dani needed her mother the most, but she wasn’t there. And she never would be again. She thought about letting the creature kill her, then she could be with her mother.
"Dani, you need to run! Run!" Dani heard the voice, but didn’t know where it was coming from. "Dani get up now!" It said again. This time she recognized the voice as her mother’s. Getting on her knees she started to crawl toward the door, she saw the creature moving across the store.
"RUN NOW!" the voice said. Dani stood up and sprinted across the floor toward the cooler door. The creature flew toward her, she felt her feet leave the floor as it lifted her up. Its arms wrapping around her throat. Her fingers tried desperately to pull it off her. She began kicking her feet, trying to hit the creature who was now breathing heavily in her face. The bottles in the beer cooler busted open spraying the creature with beer and wine. It growled, releasing her throat as it backed away. Dani fell to the ground with a thud. "Get up!" the voice demanded.
Massaging her throat with one hand she quickly got up and ran for the cooler door. She didn’t look back as she opened the door and shut it behind her. Backing up away from the door she could hear the gurgling sound through the shelves of the cooler. Looking out toward the store she saw the creature moving closer. The warmth that emanated from it caused some of the soda bottles to explode, soda flew in the air splattering the creature. It backed away from the cooler, screeching loudly.
Dani grabbed a bottle of soda and vigorously shook the bottle before opening the cap and letting it spray through the opening. The creature backed farther away from her. It doesn’t like soda, she thought. Turning around Dani scanned the bottles looking for all the soda she could find. Grabbing the biggest bottles first she placed them in a line along the floor. Glancing out into the store again she saw that the creature was heading back toward her. Grabbing the large bottles, she began to shake them as hard as she could.
“You want some soda big guy? Come get it,” she said loudly, “Come on, come get it, nasty fucker.” She waited as the creature came closer before uncapping the first bottle, propping it on the shelf while she grabbed another and doing the same. The creature writhed around screeching even louder. Its head bobbing back and forth while Dani continued opening the bottles.
When the bottles were empty, she grabbed more and continued spraying them toward the creature. She looked out at the creature who was no longer floating but growing smaller. It was no longer making noise and just kind of slumped to the floor. Sirens blared through the air as Dani realized that she had defeated death. The creature disappeared into liquid on the floor. The fog slowly moving back outside. She saw the lights of the fire truck and watched as the firefighters sprayed the gas pumps with a white powder trying to douse the flames. Police swarm inside, wearing masks. Dani started running toward the door. Standing outside she took in the view of the sky as the fog continued to disappear. Placing her hands in her pocket she realized she had her keys. Her car was somehow left untouched by the chaos of the morning.
Getting in she turned the key, grateful it had started. Put the car in drive and drove off, out of the parking lot, down the street. Anywhere was better than there. The news would report that a strange occurrence happened at the local gas station. It would be closed for a few weeks as they worked on the repairs. Dani’s phone continued to ring, but she refused to answer it. She didn’t want to talk to anyone about what had happened. The police were baffled by her story. The bodies of the woman and man were never found, assuming to have disintegrated in the fire. Dani’s life changed forever that day, even more than her mother’s death. But her desire to live grew after being faced with death itself.