[Part 1] - [Part 2] - [Part 3] - [Part 4]
“I think I know where we are.” Hearing those words leave Dave’s mouth, I didn’t know what to feel.
We were sitting on the back of a pickup truck, resting from all the walking that we’ve done. It was hard to feel anything already, anyway, other than a looming sense of dread.
Around us the gagging smell of rotting flesh still clung stubbornly to the air, while the shadows from a faraway burning flame danced on the walls, teasing the dying electric lights. Moans and groans occasionally bounced off the wall, and I shuddered to even consider what was making those noises.
“Go on,” Cecelia urged him. Dave’s eyes lingered on the both us. You could see the regret he was feeling behind those eyes.
“It was during one of my deployments,” he finally mumbled. “We… we did things that I am not proud of. Things that continued to haunt me until today. And now, it seems that my sins have finally caught up to me.”
“What do you mean your sins? What could you have possibly done to warrant this?” I pointed towards the apocalyptic scene before us. The words rolled effortlessly out my lips, fuelled by the building anger inside of me, at finally knowing.
Cecilia turned towards me and shot me a disapproving look. Or was it a disappointed look? She then reached out to Dave and squeezed his hands. “It’s okay, Dave. You can tell us.” I only felt my anger towards Dave growing. But I kept quiet, nonetheless, and let Dave continued.
“We… we killed civilians. Children. Women. During one of our operations. It was just after another incident of roadside bomb, killing half of our squad. We were angry. We wanted… revenge.” After his deployment, Dave rarely talked about his experience. Perhaps this was the reason why.
“I never wanted to do it, you know. I regretted every day for what we’ve done. When we started to shoot the children to threaten them, one of the women, in between her screams, repeatedly chanted against us.” Dave’s voice was breaking now.
He continued, struggling to maintain his composure. “I thought it was just profanities in the local language, but after coming back, members of my squad who were there that day began disappearing one by one, with no explanations. At first I thought they were unrelated, but…”
Before he could finish, however, a loud bang sounded in the distance, shocking the three of us. It sounded like a car door slamming, but it was loud enough to startle us. The three of us exchanged nervous glances. Wiping his eyes with his sleeve, Dave motioned us to keep quiet and waved his hands towards the source of the noise. I think he wants us to investigate it.
After the bang that we heard earlier, the three of us crept slowly towards the source. Dave the way, while kept watch on our backs. Even though the freeway looked abandoned, the scent in the air seemed to suggest something more sinister was going on. It was a thought that I was sure we all shared, but are too afraid to voice it out, lest it becomes true.
We made our way through the numerous abandoned vehicles, zig-zagging in between sedans, convertibles, trucks, vans. Strangely, they all faced the same direction. Towards the faraway fire, it seemed.
Who drove them, and how did they end up in such fashion? It looked as if all the vehicles were caught in a sudden traffic snarl and the owners decided abandon them, walked off to god knows where. One thing that struck me however, was that as we walked away from where the vehicles were facing, the models of the cars tend to get newer, in terms of their years of release. But despite the differing years of release, they all looked similarly worn out, like they have been there for an equal amount of time.
I did not have a lot of time to process that observation though, because as we passed a BMW with its passenger door missing, we stopped dead in our tracks. Nestled between the wall and a Toyota, only a few feet away, a familiar sight greeted us. A car that looked eerily similar to what we were driving less than a day ago, a Malaysian produced car called the Myvi. Painted blue with the words ‘JD Car Rental Services’ emblazoned in red and yellow at its side. Like the many vehicles that we had encountered, the Myvi looked as if it has been there for some time, even though only a few hours had passed after we last saw it. The tyres were flat, the paint less vibrant, coated in dirt.
Surprisingly, was how the Myvi was the last car in the long line of abandoned vehicles, the Toyota just inches in front of it. As if it was the last car to join this queue of vehicular death. Behind them, only empty road remained. There was a sharp bend not far away, which prevented us from seeing anything beyond it.
Dave seemed to be studying the Myvi, while his right hand told us to stay. After a while, he turned back to us, his face pale. “I think there’s someone sitting at the back of the car.” A cold ran down my back.
I peeked out from my location, hoping that Dave’s eyes were playing tricks on him, and although my view was partially blocked, there was indeed a figure at the back of the car. Or what looked like a human figure. The dim lighting made it hard to discern what I was looking at. I stared at it for a good few minutes, hoping to make out what it is, but it just remained still the whole time, unmoving. I could clearly see a figure resembling a human, but the features were covered it shadows.
What unnerved me was how the longer I stared at the figure, the more uneasy I felt. It was like the figure was staring back at me, though that I could not see its eyes. Fear got the better of me, as I quickly crept back towards Dave and Cecilia. The image of the figure lingered at the back of my mind.
“So, what should we do?” I hastily asked, hoping to shake off the feeling that I had. From Dave’s face, I guessed he experienced the same thing too.
“I’m not going there,” Cecilia curtly responded, her hands wrapped tightly around Dave’s arms. I still could not understand how she’s still able to love him, despite his recent confession that he was responsible for the mess that he had gotten us into. I wanted to punch him on the spot if I could. But she was genuinely afraid, you could see it on her face, and perhaps why she clung to him.
Dave studied Cecilia, then turned back to me, his eyes already asking me for a favour. “Could you just go check our car out? Perhaps you can figure out if that is indeed our car, and what or who is in the backseat?” I was hoping that he would not ask that.
I asked Dave to give me a while, which he agreed. To be honest, I am just stalling for time, because a nagging feeling is telling me that we would not like what we find.