There was a chill in the air. The snow wasn’t supposed to fall until tomorrow, but the freeway, which had narrowed from four lanes to two, was cluttered with patches of black ice. As late afternoon turned to early evening, the clouds multiplied, and light snow began to cover the desolate mountains.
The RV appeared around the far corner, a mere speck in the distance, the first vehicle to show itself in these high altitudes for nearly two hours. It was forty feet long, dark brown and archaic, and taking each sharp turn with an over-protective timidity that only a man in his seventies could have the patience for.
Donald sat in the driver’s seat. Agitated, beads of sweat running down his forehead, he adroitly maneuvered the giant vehicle through the intensifying snowstorm. He had wanted to leave Los Angeles tomorrow, but his little sweetheart was feeling home sick and insisted they return from their little weeklong road trip a day early.
“Grandpa?” the girl said.
“Are we almost there yet?”
“Soon, honey,” Donald said, running his hand through his thinning hair. “But we might have to stop for the night. It’s snowing outside.”
Eleven-year-old Grace stopped concentrating on her book at the back table and leapt to her feet. She peeked through the blinds to see the falling snow.
She shrugged. “Grandpa, it’s not snowing that much.”
“Yeah, but it’s only going to get worse. It might be best to pull over when we get to Bridgeport.”
“A small town a few miles up ahead.”
“But I thought I was gonna see Mom and Dad tonight.”
“You will, honey. Tomorrow morning, you will.”
“But I’m so sick of this RV, Grandpa. I’ve had fun and all but can’t we—”
She peered at her grandfather’s tired face in the side mirror. She could tell he was exhausted—he had been driving for four hours straight—and that he wouldn’t be arguing with her unless he had a good reason to.
She sighed and sat back down at the table. She had three chapters left to go on her book. She was finally going to see whom Bella would choose.
“Are you hungry?” he said.
“I’m fine,” Grace said, flipping through the pages faster than she could keep up with the text. She was immersed. “I just had the peanut butter and jelly sandwich you made me.”
“OK, well just let me know.”
She nodded and tried to mask her frustration. She didn’t know why her mother had insisted she take a road trip with her ailing grandfather over Christmas break. It had seemed like a fun idea in the beginning, but it turned out to be the longest eight days of her life. She was ready to go home.
“I will, Grandpa.”
As the minutes ticked on, the snowfall didn’t let up. Donald started breathing noticeably harder, and Grace, after finishing her book, found herself resting her head against the small pillow beside her.
When her grandfather woke her up a half-hour later, she had drool running down her chin.
“Grace, let’s get you to bed.”
“Did we make it to Grisly?” Grace said, looking out the window and noticing that the RV was stopped.
“We didn’t even make it to Bridgeport.” Donald pulled his granddaughter up to her feet and lightly pushed her toward the back of the RV. “I pulled over at the entrance to Route 270. The road’s closed, so there won’t be anyone coming in or out.”
“Route 270? Where does that go?”
“I don’t know, honey. Come on. Let’s get you to bed.”
Grace brushed her teeth and pulled on her sweatpants before heading to the small twin bed at the back of the RV. Donald had already pulled the covers down. He also had a teddy bear sitting at the corner of the bed.
“Uhh, Grandpa?” Grace sat down, yawned, and waited for her grandfather to appear.
“Grandpa, why did you put that teddy bear on the bed?”
“It’s your favorite. Ever since you were born.”
“I’m eleven,” she said, as he appeared out of the shadows.
He smiled and sat next to her. It was dark in the back of the RV and she couldn’t be sure, but she thought she could see a tear rolling down his cheek.
“I’ve missed you, Gracie,” he said. “This has been fun for me. Getting to spend all this quality time with you.”
She could have lied and told the old man she’d had a blast, too. But all she could think of to say was, “Yeah.”
He nodded, then stood back up, with difficulty. “Get some rest,” he said. “We’re leaving bright and early.”
It didn’t take long for Grace to fall asleep. Donald smiled and made his way to the front of the vehicle.
As Donald sat in the driver’s seat, his head leaning back, his eyelids shutting tight, he could hear the sound of snoring emanating from the back. He chuckled and leaned his head to the left, up against the side window. He breathed through his nose calmly, and opened his eyes one last time.
He furrowed his brow. “What the…”
Outside the RV, on the snow-covered two-lane road, and under the bright full moon, stood a figure, dressed all in black. Donald couldn’t make out any features on the figure’s face, but he could see the faint glow of red eyes staring back at him.
“What the hell…”
Donald slowly stood up and shuffled to the door. He pushed it open, with hesitation, and took a few painful steps out onto the snow. The chilly wind cut right through him, and he immediately brought his hands to his pants pockets.
“Hello?” he shouted. “Is somebody out here?”
All he could hear was the wind. He took another step forward and turned to his left. The figure was nowhere to be seen.
“I have a gun,” he said, even though his only firing weapon was back at his home and nowhere near the RV.
He still couldn’t see anything. Instead, the sight of the eerie figure was replaced by the sound of a low, uneasy growl.
Donald turned around. The growling noise disappeared into the wind. He couldn’t see anything unusual.
He shook his head, scared but less so, and re-entered the vehicle, bolting the tiny door behind him.
“Jesus Christ!” Donald shouted as he stumbled backward, bashing his left hand against the door and nearly smashing the back of his head against the sink.
“Grandpa!” Grace shouted. “Oh my God, are you all right?”
“Yes,” he said, pushing his palms against the chair headrest and standing back up. “You just scared me, that’s all.”
“Sorry. I heard a strange noise outside. It sounded like someone breathing.”
“I’m… uhh… I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“Can you come see?”
Donald looked to his right, just in time to catch a pair of red eyes disappear from view. He could feel his heart beating faster. He could sense that something was wrong.
He leaned down and planted his hand against his granddaughter’s shoulder. She didn’t look scared. She looked confused, and mostly tired. “Grace, I want you to listen to me.”
“I want you to go back to bed. I want you to close the sliding door, and I want you to get under the covers. I want you to hide, all right?”
She crossed her arms in defiance, like she didn’t want him treating her like a kid. “What’s the matter? Why are you acting all weird?”
“I’m not acting weird.”
“Yes you are. You’re acting scared.”
He didn’t respond. He just stared at her in terror as a warm red glow started to cover the left side of her face.
Grace stared right back at him. “What are you scared of?”
The windows on all sides of the RV shattered into a thousand pieces when the figure outside released an earsplitting shriek. Grace screamed and fell to the ground as Donald kneeled down and covered her body with his.
“Grace, stay down!”
“Grandpa, what’s going—”
Donald opened his mouth in horror as he felt the RV tipping, the force of ten elephants slamming against the side.
“Oh my God,” he said. “This isn’t happening!”
“Grandpa! Make them stop!”
The RV came crashing back down to the ground, more glass shattering on top of Donald’s bleeding head.
“Come on,” he said. “Come with me.”
This wasn’t a request; this was an order. He grabbed her arm and pulled her toward the back of the RV. Grace turned around, only once, to see the entrance door get ripped away from the vehicle.
“What’s going on?” she said, tears in her eyes, before Donald shoved her into the dark, miniscule bathroom.
“Grace, stay in here. Do not make a sound. Do you hear me? Do not make a sound!”
“But Grandpa, what—”
He slid the bathroom door shut before Grace could finish her sentence, leaving her in the small space, in the pitch black, alone. All she could do was listen.
“What…” her grandpa said. “What in God’s name…”
The growling returned, just as Grace pressed her ear up against the door to hear her grandfather screaming in terror. She heard a few punches, then a groaning noise, and then an ominous cry.
“What the hell are you?” her grandpa shouted. “What—”
His voice cut off, just as she heard a body hit the floor. All went silent.
Grace took a step back.
She forgot to breathe as the low rumble of the growl returned, and the sounds of footsteps echoed through the motorhome.
She closed her eyes and silently prayed that whatever was out there wouldn’t find her.
The footsteps came closer. Her breathing got heavier. She felt a tear roll down her cheek.
Then the growling stopped. Silence ensued. All Grace could hear now was the wind coming through the shattered windows.
She set her ear back up against the door. “Grandpa?” she whispered.
A fist punched through the door, grazing Grace’s cheek. She screamed as the figure ripped the sliding door in two and grabbed her hair, pulling her out of the bathroom.
“Nooooo!” she screamed. “Let me go! Let me go!”
The figure dragged her along the floor, all the way to the front of the RV, where Grace looked down to see her grandfather, staring at her with dead eyes, his throat slashed, a puddle of blood forming below his shoulders.
Grace reached out for her grandfather as the figure dug his sharp fingernails into her skull and pulled her out of the RV.
When her body hit the snow, she looked up to see the pale white figure above her. Smiling big, blood on his lips, a chunk of flesh missing from his cheeks, he snickered.
The last thing she saw before she blacked out was his sharp yellow teeth dashing for her throat.