Danny is a struggling singer willing to do almost anything to get a little exposure and keep food on the table, so she doesn’t think twice about traveling to the middle of nowhere to perform a gig. When she’s stranded at an abandoned airport, however, she finds herself exposed to a sinister creature with a hunger for something only she can provide.
Get the e-book:
Audiobook available at:
Click to Read an ExcerptCollapse the Excerpt
The plane landed around 11:50 pm. Danny had been promised the car rental booth would close at 12:30 am. She ran through the little two-story airport as fast as her legs could carry her, all 145 pounds of her and her duffle bag, down a frozen escalator and through an automatic door that refused to open automatically. She reached the rental desk at 11:59.
She’d come all the way from Houston to Who-the-Hell-Cared-Where, Pennsylvania to meet up with some no-names who’d posted a classified for singer who had a unique voice and was willing to travel off the beaten path. This was not a promising start.
It was the middle of wherever, but the gig promised to pay quite well—better than a weekend spent bartending, anyway. And the man on the other side of the phone had sounded sincere. But near-desperation could filter all sorts of sounds one didn’t want to hear on a cell phone—static, background traffic, snickering . . .
The airport had damn near been sucked dry of sound. Behind her, the luggage turnstile crept with a scratchy whisper as her fellow passengers silently retrieved their bags. She trudged over and eased herself onto a bench, watching for her two bags but more closely observing the twelve, sizing them up, wondering about the type of folks who would come to such an area.
Surely none of them were here on business—though one had claimed otherwise. He’d tried to make conversation with her on the plane, insisting her was a producer coming out this way to look for “lost-and-unfound” talent because he’d heard rumors . . . She thought it curious anyone would come out this way looking for any kind of talent, and she quickly grew suspicious when she realized the guy only introduced himself as being in the music biz after she’d introduced herself as a singer. She’d tuned the guy out for the remainder of the trip.
Presently, she got a better look at him and the others. Even late-night travelers didn’t dress in such a patchwork fashion. Many of their shirts seemed to be flannel, but none featured a single distinct color she could name. Their slacks looked like paper bags sewn together, and their shoes didn’t appear practical for anything other than standing still. Through lazy lids, the more she regarded them and their sullen expressions, the less they appeared human to her. They were more like rejects from something—products of a broken mold, still unwisely being used. But that was just exhaustion blowing nonsense into her head. Exhaustion and frustration.
This was her first time traveling outside of the southwest. Even at the ripe old age of thirty-two, there was so much she didn’t know about the various cultures existing inside the Brave Not-So-New World of the United States. But she was intelligent enough to know, if not always acknowledge, that each region had its own style. Perfectly normal within a limited radius.
She leaned back and allowed her eyelids to relax completely. This was going to be her first important gig in months, and she probably wouldn’t be in any shape to perform. Not on just a few hours of sleep. What was she thinking agreeing to do a breakfast performance, singing in the background at some gathering of farmers, a gathering where the audience would surely be more engrossed in their biscuits and gravy than her voice? Yeah, she was thinking of rent money—but what were the possibilities for any meaningful exposure? The guy who’d auditioned her over the phone just two days prior claimed she was exactly what they needed—a Tex-Mex songstress with a voice more rasp than honey—and he seemed happy enough to send her a plane ticket. At that point, she wasn’t going to argue about the arrival time, nor think twice about the two layovers she would have to endure before getting here.
Her eyelids fluttered open, piqued by the realization of complete silence. The turnstile had stopped turning. The claim area was empty. And there was no sign of any abandoned luggage. She stood, glumly looking all about her. Great. On top of everything else, she’d a lost bag. And, of course, the service office was closed, its workers undoubtedly as long gone as the car rental folks. Luckily, if not happily, she’d packed all her essentials in her clunky carryon. Deodorant, comb, clean undergarments . . . She hoped the breakfast audience would be more concerned about the appearance of their eggs and flapjacks than of her.
No sense in speculating. Her immediate worry was finding a place to lay her head, preferably near a source of clean water she could use to freshen up afterward, even if she only had time to splash it on her face and pits. Empty or not, she was in an airport. There had to be at least one hotel within walking distance, even in a weird country town.
She exited through the glass doors and crossed the pickup lane. There was nothing beyond the parking lot. No sign of a hotel, motel, or even a shack promising a cheap bed and breakfast. Nothing but darkness and some darker hint of trees far on the horizon.
The parking lot was just as vacant. Her fellow passengers’ rides must’ve arrived before the plane landed, ready to pick up as soon as they exited the building. Final landing of the day, the airport staff had all apparently taken off as well.
Well, maybe not all of them . . . She spotted a white van in the farthest corner of the lot. Bright white, as if it were covered in a layer of fresh snow. Its windows were as black as a snowman’s coal eyes. The impression of snow in the middle of June . . . Something was off, and she trusted her intuition.
Someone was still around, maybe close by. Maybe in the vehicle, preparing to start it up, ready to leave. But there’d be no approaching the vehicle, asking for a lift. She knew her horror movie scenarios. She backed up a few steps before doing a one-eighty back through the glass doors. Best to stay in a well-lit building.
She snatched up a map as she passed by the car rental desk, wondering just why all of the airport’s lights were still on and all the doors unlocked, as if it were just past noon rather than just past midnight.
She picked up the desk’s blue phone while gazing at the cab advertisements on the back of the folded map. No dial tone. She figured it was too much to ask that everything be working at this hour. Anyway, calling at this point seemed far more trouble than it was worth: Trying to stay awake while the cab arrived, then trusting it to take her to a decent motel without running up the meter . . . She’d have been more inclined if she could trust her smartphone to stay up with her through all that, but she’d realized when boarding the plane that her phone was almost out of juice. Turning it on now and keeping it on until the cab arrived would kill it. Of course, she’d had the brilliant foresight to pack the charger with the other nonessentials in her lost luggage.
She left the desk, unfolding the map as she wandered. It seemed she hadn’t been too far off considering this area the middle of wherever. The map showed only the airport at its center with nothing but an open field surrounding it. At the far edges were the trees she thought she’d made out in the dark. The map had no scale or anything else useful to determine the distance from the airport to the trees. It didn’t matter to her. In the morning, she’d be driving through it, not walking it—even if the map oddly showed no roads or paths.
She looked up from the map and spotted a ladies’ room. No sense in waiting till sunrise to wash travel’s grime off her face. Something also had to be done with what was left of her late-night burger and fries. She checked three stalls before finding one with toilet paper, hung her bag on the door’s hook, and then sat down with a sigh.
She’d get some shuteye on the bench in the baggage claim area. It was barely even comfortable to sit on, but when the car rental desk opened at six, she’d be in a prime position to get what she needed and get the hell out of there. Her performance started at eight; the location she’d been given surely couldn’t be that far away.
She sighed again as she wiped and pulled up her jeans. She’d a funny feeling in her stomach. It never failed. Dropping a little load always made her a little hungry. During her earlier mad dash, she’d noticed a vending machine upstairs, one containing nuts and dried fruit in addition to the usual cavity creators; she’d swing by on her way to the bench. She flushed, grabbed her bag, and opened the stall door.