Hometown Haunts (Wakefield Press) is edited by South Australian writer Poppy Nwosu, who is also the author of three romantic contemporary young adult novels but has loved horror stories since she was a child.

She says she now understands they are used as a mirror to reflect our times and help us “piece together things that are difficult to understand”: “The tales in this book ­– some scary, others weird, haunting or hopeful ­– are a reflection of the chaos all around us.”

Said to be the first #LoveOzYA anthology to focus entirely on horror, Hometown Haunts comprises 14 stories by Australian young adult writers and two graphic artists. Among them is Stop Revive Survive, by Melbourne-based author Sarah Epstein, another long-time horror fan, who says her story is inspired by a long and lonely solo road trip she took up the Hume Highway in 2018 to be with her dying dad in Sydney.

Stop Revive Survive

By Sarah Epstein

Eddie’s bladder was going to burst. It was all he could think about. He readjusted himself in the passenger seat, loosening the seatbelt across his lap. Every bump and dip in the road sent stabbing pains through his abdomen.

‘Pull over here,’ he begged his cousin Stu, regretting the large Coke he’d ordered with his burger and fries at their last stop. ‘The emergency lane will do.’

‘Nup,’ Stu said. ‘Too dangerous.’

Eddie stared through the windscreen at the two northbound lanes of rural highway. A metal guardrail ran the length of the shoulder, but there was ample room for a car to pull over.

‘How’s it dangerous?’ Eddie asked. ‘There are barely any cars around.’

Stu checked his mirrors, squinting at the burnt-orange sunset behind them. ‘Haven’t you ever watched dash-cam videos? Cars in highway emergency lanes get smashed into all the time. Only takes one distracted driver and bam.’

He took both hands off the wheel for a second, slapping his palms together like he was squashing a bug. He was talking crap as usual; Eddie knew Stu was just doing this to torture him. His cousin had always been a bit of a dick, and things had intensified since Stu finished high school and started a traineeship at a marketing company. As far as Eddie could tell, Stu’s co-workers were absolute tools, always bragging about women and cars and how much money they made. And they referred to themselves as the ‘Alpha Pack’. Enough said.

‘Just pull over anywhere!’

Eddie started to sweat. He was even eyeing up the empty Coke cup in the cup holder and hoped it wouldn’t come to that. If he pissed himself in Aunty Meg’s car, not only would she be furious with him, but Stu would never let him live it down.

‘There,’ his cousin said, pointing out a blue road sign ahead. It showed a symbol of a tree with a picnic table – 5 km – and three words stacked, one on top of the other:

STOP

REVIVE

SURVIVE.

‘Good timing,’ Stu added. ‘I need a break.’

Never mind that I needed one twenty minutes ago, Eddie thought, rolling his eyes.

This road trip had been his mother’s idea, but Eddie couldn’t hold it against her. In fact, there wasn’t any other way around it if he wanted to make it to Sydney in time to see his grandfather on his deathbed. A mercy dash, Eddie’s mum called it. Grandpa Mac had taken a turn for the worse yesterday and nursing staff advised he was nearing the end. The nine-hour drive from Melbourne to Sydney would still be faster than the rigmarole of booking expensive last-minute flights, not to mention all the waiting around for transfers in between. Eddie’s mum and Aunty Meg flew to Sydney a week ago, and they suggested Stu drive up there in his mother’s car with Eddie. Only problem with the whole plan was that Eddie would be stuck in an enclosed space with Stu for the best part of a day. And ten minutes into the drive, he realised he’d made a huge mistake.

That was seven hours ago.

Stu yawned. ‘Oh man, I’m so shattered,’ he said, rubbing a hand over his face. ‘Big one with the boys last night. Should’ve seen the girls all over us at the club. They can’t resist the alpha energy.’

Eddie gritted his teeth and turned towards the passenger window. It was the same view he’d been looking at for hours: brown grass, scrubby trees, jagged rock cuttings, wire fences stretching on forever. He rested his head against the glass and closed his eyes, wishing he could put his earbuds in to drown Stu out. His phone was low on battery though, and he needed it to keep his mum updated. Mercifully, it wasn’t long until the tick of the car’s indicator made Eddie sit up. Stu merged into the turning lane for the rest stop. Thank god.

As they pulled off the Hume Highway, the sealed surface gave way to a gravel side-road. It meandered a short distance before curving around a picnic ground surrounded by tall eucalypts. The other side of the rest area backed onto a forest, dense pine trees rolling out as far as the eye could see. Three sad-looking wooden picnic tables sat empty, and the grass was an overgrown haven for snakes and who knew what else. It hadn’t been maintained for a while by the look of things, which didn’t bode well for the state of the toilets.

‘Bummer,’ Stu said, bumping the car through the potholed parking area. ‘I was hoping it would be one of those driver revivers with free coffee and biscuits.’

The place was deserted, except for a motorhome parked at the far end with its cabin door open. Two empty fold-up chairs were positioned in front of it, one tipped on its side.

‘They probably only run them during school holidays,’ Eddie said, distracted. He’d spotted the toilet block through the trees. It was about fifty metres from the parking area towards the edge of the pine forest. He already had his seatbelt unbuckled and fingers gripped around the door handle.

The moment the car stopped, Eddie scrambled up the narrow dirt trail towards the toilets. They were in a tiny dark green building with a corrugated roof. A water tank sat nearby with a tap on the side and a plastic sign reading Non-potable – Do Not Drink. Eddie guessed the toilets were long drops before he even made it near the door. The air was rancid. The kind of stink that soured in your mouth and shrivelled your windpipe all the way to your lungs.

Eddie decided to bypass that horror show altogether. He slipped into the trees at the edge of the forest, letting out a shuddering sigh as he relieved himself onto a carpet of dead pine needles. He glanced over his shoulder to make sure he couldn’t be seen from the motorhome. All quiet over there. Feeling himself relax as he emptied out, Eddie let his eyes roam up the long corridors of trees. The air smelled spicy and refreshing, like his family’s living room at Christmas-time. One nearby pine even had a scrap of red and white polka-dot fabric snagged in a lower branch, flapping in the breeze like a festive flag. Eddie peered up further into the canopy and noticed a number of broken boughs, splintered from their trunks and dangling.

As Eddie zipped up his fly, a car door thumped closed in the distance. He glanced over at Aunty Meg’s sedan to see Stu moving to one of the rear doors.

What the hell’s he up to?

Something snapped in the forest. Eddie spun around and stared into the trees. The light was fading now, long shadows merging in the blue-grey dusk. Eddie held still, scouring for movement between the long rows of tree trunks. Probably just an animal – a roo or a wombat – and hopefully not some weirdo from the motorhome spying on him while he peed.

Only now did Eddie realise he couldn’t hear any wildlife. No birds or crickets. Not even a fly buzzing past. Just the subtle creak of swaying pines, a hiss of wind, and the occasional distant whoosh of passing vehicles out on the highway.

On his return to the car, Eddie paused at the water tank to wash his hands. He heard a much louder crack in the forest this time, like a tree branch splitting in half. Something heavy thumped to the ground. Campers collecting firewood? Maybe. Eddie wasn’t sticking around to find out. He felt exposed out here in the open, even more so scurrying back to the car park with the forest behind him.

He found Stu sprawled across the sedan’s rear seat, his limbs bent at awkward angles. One arm was raised alongside his head, folded at the elbow and draped across his eyes.

‘What are you doing?’ Eddie asked.

‘Power nap.’

Eddie glanced at the forest as he pulled the passenger door shut behind him. ‘We should keep moving. It’s getting dark.’

‘Exactly. So I need to be alert,’ Stu said. He shifted to get comfortable. ‘When you actually know how to drive, you’ll understand.’

Eddie ignored the dig. Stu always spoke to him like he was six instead of sixteen. ‘You know this is that area though, right?’

‘Which area?’

‘Where those backpackers disappeared.’

‘What, like thirty years ago?’ Stu’s tone was mocking. He didn’t bother lifting his arm to look at Eddie. ‘The dude who killed them went to prison and died of cancer. I think we’ll be okay.’

‘I don’t mean that,’ Eddie said. ‘It happened earlier this year. A couple of Dutch tourists disappeared along this stretch.’

‘So?’

‘Their backpacks were found on the side of the highway. Police suspect foul play.’ Stu didn’t respond, so Eddie continued. ‘Another hitch-hiker came forward saying he’d been picked up by some guy who had all this dodgy stuff in his car. Ropes, duct tape, a handsaw—’

Stu yawned. ‘You’re getting it confused with a movie.’

‘I can google it right now if you don’t believe me.’

‘Jesus, Ed.’ Stu shifted again. ‘I just need twenty minutes. Keep the bloody doors locked if you’re so scared.’

‘I’m just saying—’ Eddie stopped and sighed. Of course Stu didn’t believe him. His cousin was one of those people who always had to be right, and if it turned out anyone else was, he feigned disinterest or changed the subject.

‘Better make it thirty minutes,’ Stu mumbled.

It’ll be pitch black by then, Eddie didn’t say out loud. He waited until Stu’s breathing slowed, then leaned over the driver’s seat to hit the central-locking button on the car keys. They weren’t in the ignition though. In Stu’s pocket most likely. Eddie flicked the door lock on the driver’s side and a satisfying clunk locked all four doors simultaneously.

Minutes passed. The car’s engine ticked. The wind picked up a little, just enough to scatter dead leaves across the car park. Eddie slid a curious glance towards the motorhome. Where were the owners? There was a large patch of disturbed gravel between the fold-up chairs and the cabin door. A small object sat abandoned on the step inside the cabin. A sandal. Just one.

Crack!

Whump.

Eddie jerked in his seat, swinging back towards the passenger window. Something in the pine forest had splintered and dropped. It was big. Loud enough to hear from inside the car. Eddie pressed his nose to the glass and held his breath. He watched the silhouetted treetops, now almost black against the hazy evening sky.

A tree shook.

Then the one beside it.

Eddie squinted, struggling to focus in the dwindling light. Another pine tree swayed, the top half rocking like a pendulum. It was as if something was moving from tree to tree.

Something large.

Nah. It had to be the wind. Or a flock of birds.

You haven’t heard a single bird call, Eddie reminded himself.

But what kind of animal could it possibly be?

Eddie couldn’t help it: his mind started running through ridiculous possibilities. Yowie, Sasquatch, Bigfoot – every other folklore creature he could think of that didn’t really exist. Hell, maybe they did. What did Eddie know? His dying grandfather certainly believed in that sort of stuff. A grizzled Scotsman who grew up in Inverness, Grandpa Mac used to show Eddie and Stu a blurry Polaroid he took of a dark splotch in the water he claimed was the head of the Loch Ness Monster. ‘The thing about monsters,’ he’d say with a wink, ‘is they appear when ye least expect ’em. So ye have to be ready, ye ken?’

Eddie groped around inside the car’s console. He shoved his hand down the side of the seat, then along the floor at his feet. He popped open the glovebox. Beneath a packet of wet wipes and the car owner’s manual, his fingers closed around a steel wrench. It felt weighty, reassuring. He turned his attention to the forest again and held his breath. Nothing moved now. The wind had died down and the trees were still. So still that Eddie questioned whether they’d really moved at all.

Quiet descended on the rest area. Stu’s breathing was rhythmic and lulling. Eddie felt his shoulders relax, his grip loosening on the wrench. He could hear crickets now as the last remnants of orange leached from the sky. Slumping against the seat, Eddie stretched his legs out and felt the tension in his limbs dissolving as he—

Aah-aaa-aah-aaaah-aaa-aah-aaaah-aah ... Thun-der!

Eddie startled, whacking the wrench into his kneecap. Stu’s ringtone cut through the silence, the opening bars of AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’.

His cousin jolted upright. He blinked into the grey light, disorientated, before pulling out his phone. Eddie quickly shoved the wrench into the pocket of his cargo pants before Stu could see it.

‘Mum?’ Stu answered. He wiped the drool from the corner of his mouth. Eddie heard the squawk of Aunty Meg’s voice on the other end but couldn’t catch what she was saying. Stu didn’t look alarmed; it couldn’t have been the inevitable news about their grandpa just yet.

‘No worries,’ Stu said, stifling a yawn. ‘Just taking a quick break. We’ll be back on the road in five.’ He hung up, stretched his neck muscles, then tried to open the car door and found it locked. He shook his head at Eddie. ‘Wuss,’ he muttered, reaching for the keys in his pocket.

Eddie clambered out of the car after him. ‘What’d your 
mum say?’

Stu ignored him as he moved to the driver’s door. ‘I’m thirsty as hell,’ he said, reaching inside for his water bottle. He gave it a shake but it was empty. ‘There’s a tap up there at the toilets, right?’

‘A sign says Do Not Drink.’

‘Damn.’ Stu glanced over his shoulder at the motorhome. ‘Go and ask them if they can spare some.’ He tossed the plastic bottle at Eddie, who fumbled to catch it.

‘What? Why me?’

Stu headed for the dirt trail. ‘Because I’ve been driving all day, Ed. It’s the least you can do.’

‘Wait.’ Eddie looked past Stu towards the pine trees. ‘Where are you going?’

‘What does it look like? You wanna come and hold my hand?’

‘Just go here,’ Eddie said. ‘Behind the car.’ His tone was childish, even to his own ears. He quickly added, ‘The long drop stinks like somebody died in there.’

‘Don’t have a choice, mate,’ Stu called, jogging up the trail. ‘Not keen on crapping in the car park.’

Eddie studied the forest for a moment, then reluctantly turned and trudged across the parking area towards the motorhome. The grey gloom of evening had set in, but there were no lights on inside.

‘Hello?’ he called. His eyes were drawn to that single sandal again, a long smear of mud beside it on the step. ‘Anybody home?’ He glanced over his shoulder in time to see Stu disappear inside the toilets. They’d be on the road again soon enough.

A few metres from the motorhome, it hit Eddie: an odour ten times worse than the long drop. Spoiled meat and bin juice and sewage all rolled into one. He slapped a hand across his mouth and stumbled backwards for fresh air, taking a few bracing gulps before reaching for his phone. He flicked on the light and shone it towards the motorhome’s door.

The smear of mud on the doorstep was reddish-brown and glistening. Droplets of it were spattered up the internal walls.

Oh god.

Long streaks of it marked the laminate floor like something had been dragged.

It wasn’t mud at all.

‘Stu!’ Eddie yelled, whirling around. ‘STU!’

His frantic voice echoed across the rest area. Stu had mocked him about the serial killer stuff, but this looked bad. Really, really bad.

‘Stu!’ he called again. He was frozen with indecision. Return to the car? Or check if someone inside the motorhome 
needed help?

Does it smell like they can be helped?

Stu emerged from the toilets. In the dim light, Eddie could make him out, hastily buttoning his jeans.

What the hell!’ Stu shouted, stumbling on the trail. His phone’s torch blinked on, directed at his feet. His gait was stroppy, clearly irritated. ‘You can’t be alone for two minutes, you friggen’ baby!

Behind him, movement rippled through the trees.

One by one, the pines shook, as if in sequence. Stu turned at the sound of splitting branches. A large shadow thrashed closer and closer to the forest’s edge until—

It burst out of the treetops.

‘What the fu—’ Eddie gasped.

A hulking creature arced through the air and thudded to the ground beside the toilet block. Four-legged and front-heavy, five times the size of Stu. Skin black as night and a bulbous head like a tumour, split sideways to reveal a gaping maw for a mouth.

What am I looking at? Eddie’s brain shrieked. Whatthehellis thatthing!

He didn’t realise he was backing away until he smacked into the motorhome’s siding.

The creature hunched forward on hooked limbs, angling its head one way, then the other.

Stu ran. He sprinted down the dirt trail so fast, his phone sailed out of his hand, the torch light spinning to the ground. The creature launched itself after him, bounding on all fours like an oversized attack dog, kicking up grass and soil in its wake. The gap between them closed quickly. Stu yelped as he vaulted over the car park’s log edging, fumbling for the keys in his pocket as he rounded the car. The creature leapt too, its bulk making it less agile. It skidded right past the vehicle across the gravel.

To Eddie’s horror, it was headed straight for him.

He bolted up the motorhome’s steps and yanked the door shut, ducking low behind the kitchenette to brace for impact. The creature slammed into the side of the van, so hard it rocked from side to side. Plastic cups and plates rained down over Eddie as he gulped for air in the thick stench. His phone light bounced off the ceiling, illuminating the back half of the cabin.

A cry caught in his throat.

Slumped face-down on the floor was the body of a woman, her red and white polka-dot dress in tatters.

Her left ankle was a meaty mess. Her right leg had been torn off mid-thigh. And blood. So much blood. It pooled beneath her like a black hole in the laminate flooring.

Eddie pressed his eyes shut, woozy. He panted so fast he might faint.

Outside, Aunty Meg’s car started up.

Wait.

Eddie lurched towards the closest window. The creature was on the other side of the glass. Eddie froze, didn’t blink. He held his breath and watched the creature’s head tilt towards the engine noise. Up close its skin was leathery and toad-like, rippling just beneath the surface like a carcass full of maggots. It had sunken voids where its eyes should be. A bumpy spine protruded down the full length of its back.

The creature opened its mouth, baring several rows of jagged teeth. It made a throaty clicking sound, insect-like and alien.

Across the car park, Stu gunned the sedan’s engine, wheels spinning wildly in the gravel. He floored it towards the exit, his horrified face peering through the driver’s window long enough to make eye contact with Eddie.

‘Wait!’ Eddie shouted, slamming a hand against the motorhome’s window. The creature jerked back to the glass for a heart-stopping second before taking off after the car.

Eddie threw open the motorhome’s door and tumbled out, waving his arms. ‘Stu! Wait!’

He’ll turn around. He’ll come back to get me.

The sedan skidded onto the side road towards the highway, the engine kicking up a notch. Not slowing. Not doubling back.

‘Don’t leave me here!’ Eddie cried.

As the car followed the curve of the side road, the creature cut through the picnic ground, using its limbs against gum trees to effortlessly propel itself forward. It met the vehicle at the other side of the long grass, leaping through the air and landing on the bonnet like a boulder. Eddie heard a crunch of metal. One of the tyres popped. The sedan spun out sideways as Stu lost control. It slammed into a tree and the creature was thrown off-balance. But only for a second. It reared up on its hind legs before thrusting its head through the windscreen.

Eddie couldn’t move. His pulse thrashed in his ears as he watched the creature rummage, half-in, half-out of the car. Stu’s screams of agony made Eddie’s legs weak.

What do I do? What do I do?

As his cousin’s cries dwindled into wet gurgles, a chill of terror washed over Eddie. He was next. He needed to run . . . but where? He could see headlights on the highway, oblivious motorists going about their Thursday evening. If he made it out there he could flag down a car, get to safety, tell people. They’d come here and hunt it.

Destroy it.

But what about the creature’s speed? It would snatch Eddie up before he made it across the picnic ground. If he hid in the motorhome it was only a matter of time before the creature smashed those windows too. Eddie would bleed to death in there like the woman in the polka-dot dress. He didn’t want to die on the side of a highway. He didn’t want to die alone.

He didn’t want to die.

Eddie dashed to the nearest gum tree. He slipped behind the wide trunk and listened for movement, daring a peek towards the sedan.

The creature was busy feeding. On Stu.

Eddie swallowed the bile rising in the back of his throat. He eyed up the next tree a few metres away. As he snuck towards it, the toe of his shoe caught on a tree root. He stumbled, scraping his foot loudly in the dirt. Eddie pressed himself flat against the tree and held his breath. Seconds passed like hours. He took another glimpse across the picnic ground.

Still feeding. Keep going.

Eddie dashed to the next tree. Then the next one. The edge of the picnic ground was in sight. But to run from the side road to the highway, Eddie needed to pass Aunty Meg’s car. He edged around the tree for a better vantage point, gingerly navigating his feet between tree roots. He felt a twig crunch beneath his foot at the exact moment he heard a loud, dry snap.

The creature extracted itself from the car. It sprang from the bonnet and prowled the picnic ground, mouth slick with blood. Scraps of Stu’s T-shirt and other things Eddie didn’t want to think about were dangling from its teeth.

Eddie was stuck. He couldn’t run for the highway. He couldn’t make it back to the motorhome. The creature cocked its head, producing the clicking noise again. Eddie’s blood ran cold. Was it listening for him? Tracking him? It responded to sound when Stu started the car. If something drew it away, Eddie could make a break for it.

Call for help.

Eddie carefully slid his phone from his pocket. The battery was almost dead but he might manage one call. How could he do it without the creature hearing him speak?

He could set an alarm, toss his phone somewhere to lure the creature away. But how far could he throw? To give himself a fighting chance it would need to be an impossible distance, all the way up near the forest’s edge like—

Stu’s phone.

Eddie looked beyond the picnic ground, past the motorhome to the other side of the car park. Halfway along the dirt trail was the faint glow of the phone’s torch light.

He dialled Stu’s number. The ringtone sang out in the darkness.

Aah-aaa-aah-aaaah-aaa-aah-aaaah-aah ... Thun-der!

From here it wasn’t loud, but the creature jerked upright, alert.

‘Aah-aaa-aah-aaaah-aaa-aah-aaaah-aah ... Thun-der!

Twisting its hulking frame, it charged towards the sound.

Eddie bolted.

Long grass whipped at his cargo pants. Dry leaves crunched beneath his feet. His footfalls echoed when he hit the side road. Too loud too loud too loud. Eddie pressed the phone to his ear. As soon as it diverted to voicemail he hung up and redialled Stu’s number with trembling hands. He couldn’t look behind him. If he was going to be snatched up by that thing, he didn’t want to see it coming.

The gravel turned to bitumen as Eddie hurtled onto the highway. He dialled Stu’s number again but his phone turned black and silent. Headlights blazed in the distance and Eddie sprinted towards them. There were no streetlights out here. Cars wouldn’t see him until they were almost on top of him.

A ute with a chrome bull bar approached at speed. Eddie knew the driver had spotted him when the high beams flashed on and off.

He waved his arms above his head. ‘Stop! Help!’

The driver blasted the horn and swerved, forcing Eddie backwards onto the shoulder.

Get off the road, meth-head!’ somebody yelled as the ute 
flew by.

Eddie winced. That car horn was way too loud. Any minute now, that thing would come bounding up the side road.

Chest burning, he pushed on further down the highway. A semi-trailer drew close, lit up like a Christmas tree. Eddie stayed on the shoulder this time, jumping up and down and swinging his arms wildly. The truck thundered past without even slowing.

Eddie choked back tears of frustration.

The next car had to stop. He’d throw himself across the bonnet if need be.

One more set of headlights glowed in the darkness.

Please please please.

Eddie waved his arms as he ran towards it. Miraculously, the car’s indicator blinked as it pulled into the emergency lane. Eddie staggered to the passenger side and tried to open the door. It was locked. The driver lowered the window.

‘Please,’ Eddie gasped, doubling over. ‘Please let me in.’

A man his dad’s age was behind the wheel. Balding, with glasses and a flannelette checked shirt. ‘You look like you’ve had a rough night.’

‘Please help me,’ Eddie managed. He looked back towards the rest area. Was that movement on the side road? ‘Please. We were attacked.’

The man recoiled.

‘You need to get me out of here,’ Eddie pleaded.

The driver hesitated for a moment before leaning over to unlock the door.

‘Open it,’ he said. ‘Get in.’

Eddie collapsed into the passenger seat and slammed the door shut. ‘Drive. You need to drive right now!’

The man gave him a quick once-over before checking his mirrors and pulling onto the highway. ‘What the hell happened?’

Eddie tugged on his seatbelt. ‘This animal, this creature. It—’ He couldn’t find words to describe it. ‘It came out of nowhere.’

‘What?’ The driver nudged his glasses and gave Eddie a doubtful glance. ‘I drive up and down this area all the time for work. I’ve never heard about any ferocious wild animals.’

‘Trust me,’ Eddie said, trying to force the memory of Stu’s screams from his mind.

‘Who are you with?’ the driver asked. ‘Does anyone know you’re here?’

‘My cousin . . . ’ Eddie’s voice broke. ‘I was with my cousin. But this thing – it attacked him. And a woman too. She was already . . .’

Eddie shook his head, unable to look at the driver as he tried to hold himself together.

‘You’re safe now,’ the driver said. A subtle change in his voice made Eddie look over. The dashboard lights were reflected in his glasses. ‘We’ll get you some help.’

Did he think Eddie was crazy? On drugs? Maybe he thought Eddie was lying.

‘I need the police,’ Eddie said.

‘Do you have a phone?’

Eddie held it up with a shaky hand. ‘Battery died.’

‘My phone’s in the back. You want me to pull over and get it?’

‘No!’ Eddie turned to look through the rear window. The black outline of the pine forest was still too close. ‘Not yet. Please keep driving.’

The car hit a bump and rattled. Eddie’s eyes were drawn to the junk spread across the back seat. A duffle bag. Rope. A roll of garbage bags.

A handsaw.

‘Just relax now,’ the driver said. ‘I’ll take care of you.’

Eddie glanced at the passenger door. The handle had been removed.

‘Where are we going?’ Eddie asked as the driver drifted into a turning lane. A rural backroad was coming up. No streetlights. Not signposted.

The driver flexed his fingers, then re-gripped the steering wheel.

‘We need the police,’ Eddie insisted. ‘The army. Something.’

The driver was quiet, his attention on the road.

Eddie’s heartrate had barely slowed before it surged again. He thought of Grandpa Mac, who he wanted to see one last time.

The thing about monsters is they appear when ye least expect ’em.

‘So you have to be ready,’ Eddie murmured.

He unbuckled his seatbelt and reached for the wrench in his pocket.

—————–

Extracted with permission from Hometown Haunts, edited by Poppy Nwosu and published by Wakefield Press.

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