A rising moon hovers over Hawk Peak Mountain, magnified through a crimson haze. Its fiery glow washes over the treetops and into a valley thick with pine trees. As the moonlight creeps over the forest, an old van struggles to reach the top of Dark Fall Pass. It’s overheated motor clanks loudly and leaves a trail of fumes polluting the air behind it, and as the pass becomes steeper, the van moves slower.
Inside the old van is five college students dressed for cold weather. The driver with the dark, squared off chops is Mark, and the smaller, athletic girl in the passenger seat is his girlfriend, Jennifer. Squeezed into the backseat are the remaining three; David, Rachel, and Jeff. David has short black, messy hair and has his arm around Rachel. Jeff is the heavier set one with long, stringy hair and has a bag wedged between his knees and the front seat. Rachel’s slender figure allows her squeeze between them both with ease, and together, they all sit quietly watching out the front windshield as they drive into Shadow Pines.
As they approach the top of the pass, Mark floors the gas pedal and shifts his body forward, trying to help push the van along. “Come on baby, you can make it,” he says as he rocks back and forth.
Jennifer sighs and speaks with a soft voice, “We should have taken my car. The rest of them are already at the campground having a good time, and watch, we’ll be broke down on the side of the road inside this greasy heap.”
“Hey... Don’t be calling her names. She has feelings you know?” Mark rubs his hand across the dashboard.” Besides, if it wasn’t for the extra weight she’d make it just fine.”
“You best not be talking about me,” Rachel states from the backseat.
“He wasn’t, babe,” David replies. “He’s referring to your obese brother. If he’d pack clothes like a normal person and not the entire refrigerator, we wouldn't have this problem.”
Jeff responds with a mouthful of chips, “I didn’t pack the refrigerator.”
“Yeah, right. It’s not like you’d starve to death anyhow. You could just live off of your own fat,” David implies.
Jennifer covers her mouth. “Oh that's disgusting.”
“Quit picking on my brother. You’re not so thin yourself,” Rachel replies.
Tapping the oil gauge, Mark interrupts them, “Um, guys… We’re low on oil. I’m gonna have to pull over soon.”
“Big surprise,” Jennifer sarcastically states. “And let me guess, you don’t have any, right?”
“Great, just great. You do realize that we’ve already passed the last...” Before she can finish speaking, a blinding violet light bombards her vision then dissipates. She feels panicked, and her heartbeat becomes erratic. The feeling lasts for a few moments then passes. “...town,” she abruptly finishes her sentence.
A deep gloom embraces the night sky, the stars stop twinkling, and the headlights no longer reflect into the forest off the steaming asphalt. A dark fog drifts across the road, but they drive straight through it.
Mark asks, “How many times have you been up here?”
Blinking sluggishly, Jennifer slowly gazes over at him. Uncertain, she replies, “Enough times to know there isn't another town.”
Jeff crumples the bag of chips in his hands and points to the sky. “Hey there was that strange lightning again, did you see it?”
“Yeah... Both times now. I don't know what's going on,” Jennifer replies as she sinks into the passenger seat and folds her arms over her stomach.
“That's so weird, there's hardly even a cloud in the sky. Maybe they’re lighting off fireworks.”
“I don't think fireworks can light up the entire mountain,” she replies.
The van finally reaches the top of the twisting pass, and as the desolate road levels out, they rapidly gain speed. Coming over a small hill, the headlights breach the surface of the road just as a man and a woman appear right in front of them. Jennifer screams and covers her eyes. Mark hits the brakes and jerks the steering wheel. The tires screech and the van veers off the road just as the couple dives out of the way. Tree branches bash into the windshield. Rocks bang into the frame, and Mark jerks the steering wheel again causing the van to violently skid back onto the road.
“Oh my god, slow down,” Jennifer yells while bracing herself on the dashboard.
“We're fine,” Mark replies as he glances into the rear-view mirror, but all he can see is darkness.
“Who the hell was that,” Rachel asks.
“I don't know... Some dude with a freaky looking chick.”
“Maybe they need help,” Jennifer suggests.
“Screw that,” David replies. “Just keep driving. There's no way in hell I'm stopping in the middle of the mountains at night just for some freaks to kill us.”
“Oh quit being a big baby.” Rachel nudges her shoulder into him.
“Well I didn't hear you offer to help,” he replies.
Noticing a reflective sign posted on the side of the road reading 'Shadow Pines Campground 5 miles' Mark intervenes, “We're not stopping. The campground is just over that ridge. If we stop now we'll have to wait for the motor to cool. Besides, I'm sure somebody there will have some extra oil we can borrow.”
“We're probably gonna breakdown anyways,” Jennifer says just as a small cabin nestled between several pine trees comes into view. Above the cabin door is a lit sign reading 'Shadow Pine Supplies' that turns on and off in awkwardly long intervals.
“Well what do you know?” Mark grins at her. “No more towns, eh?”
“This... isn't a town.”
As they pull up to the cabin, the paved road comes to an end and is replaced by a smaller gravel road that continues through the forest to the campgrounds. They drive into the rocky parking lot and park beside a pickup truck with a small flatbed trailer. Mark climbs out of the van as David opens the rear sliding door and a rush of cool mountain breeze sweeps inside.
Jennifer rubs her forehead nervously. “I don’t think we should be stopping here. Besides, I thought we were just going to borrow some oil at the campground?”
“That's if somebody has some. It'll just take a minute, I promise,” Mark replies.
“Fine.” She sighs. “But why does David have to go?”
Mark shrugs. “What does it matter?”
“I don’t know. I… I just feel as if something isn’t right. Let's just go to the campgrounds.”
“We're already here, and besides, I need a couple more for the road unless you'd rather risk being stuck up here. We'll be out of here in ten minutes tops.”
Jennifer runs her hand through her brown, shoulder-length hair and removes it from her face. “Fine... Just hurry, please.”
“I'll be right back.” Mark slams the door.
“It'll just take a minute,” David adds.
Rachel shivers. “Whatever. Just shut the door its freezing.”
“Dude could you grab me a soda,” Jeff asks.
“Oh shut the fuck up,” David says then slides the door shut.
Both Mark and David head over to the rundown cabin. The door is squeaky and barely movable, but Mark just muscles it open. Inside the dimly lit room, the flooring is covered with pine needles and bits of tree branches and bark, and a not-so fragrant smell of sap permeates the air.
“Let’s hurry up and get the hell out of here,” Mark says as he steps over a small pile of boxes and heads towards the back.
Nodding, David waits by the entrance when he hears a muffled radio voice coming from the corner of the room. Curious, he walks around the shelving towards a small wooden table where somebody has swept several items from it onto the floor. Setting on the table now is a large black satchel.
Again the muffled radio voice speaks, “Cshhshsh... Hunt can you r... me. Over. Cshhshsh.”
David checks over his shoulder for prying eyes, and with nobody watching, he opens the flap on top. A yellow two-way radio sits inside along with several glass jars and a row of side pockets packed with syringes, tubes, and small metallic tools.
He removes the radio from the case, and the voice speaks again, “Cshhshsh... Prof...sor Hu.., this is Bruce, can you r..d me. Th..s a dark fog moving in .. your locat...n. Cshhshsh.” The radio cuts out.
Something inside the satchel catches his eye, and he ignores the broadcast and sets the radio aside. One of the jars has something moving inside of it, and he lifts it out. In awe, he slowly rotates it in his hand. “Whoa, what the hell is that?”
Trapped inside the jar is a blackish creature about half the size of a human hand with grasshopper-like legs that run like little motors, constantly moving as it attempts to climb the side of the glass. It has two bulging black eyes with wiry white hairs scattered over its body and an oversized mouth lined with tiny serrated teeth. David glances over his shoulder, and with nobody watching, he quickly slips the jar inside his jacket and exits back outside to the van.
Meanwhile, Mark walks over to an elderly man standing behind a counter at the rear of the cabin and sets the oil cans down. He waits for him to respond, but the man just ignores him and stares off into space. “Hello, dude you awake,” Mark asks as he snaps his fingers in front of his face, but the man does not respond. Noticing a golden shimmer in his eyes, he leans over for a closer look when all of a sudden the man opens his mouth and grabs him by the sides of his head, pulling his face closer. Several blackened insect legs reach out from the man’s throat followed by two whip-like antennae that curl and twist.
Mark strains to pull away but is overpowered as the insect forcefully stretches his lips apart. A black caterpillar shaped creature with dozens of legs crawls out and into his mouth. His neck swells as the creature forces its way down his throat causing him to heave. He folds over, slamming face first into the counter, and lies there motionless. The lump in his throat jams down into his chest like a rat down the belly of a snake. His chest snaps, and his eyes sparkle with a golden hue.
The elderly man remains behind the counter, standing in a trance. Gray blisters slowly form on his face, and he slumps to the floor and vomits thick, black mucus that bubbles on the ground. Blisters spread rapidly over his skin, covering his face, arms and hands, and lying on the floor next to him is the dead body of another man covered with the same crusty fungus.
Mark, now controlled by the creature, sits up and pays no attention to either of them. He grabs the cans and proceeds outside to the van. After adding the oil, he slams the hood shut and climbs inside to start it. The motor clanks and backfires then shuts back down. “Just give it a minute. She'll start,” he says while gassing it a few more times, and after a couple more tries the motor reluctantly fires up. “Oh yeah,” he yells then looks over at Jennifer, “I'm feeling good now, how about you?” He winks at her.
She gives him a strange look and replies, “...I guess. Let's just get the hell out of here, okay?”
“Yeah, this place gives me the creeps. Let's just go already,” Rachel says.
Just then, the elderly man covered with blisters from inside the cabin appears at the door waving his hands and begins chasing them.
“Go dude,” David yells.
Mark, without hesitation, slams the shifter into reverse and backs the van out of the parking lot. He just misses the man but does not slow down. He shoves the shifter into drive and guns it, and they tear down the gravel road towards the campgrounds.
Rachel watches the man as they drive off, when all of a sudden both the man and the cabin are consumed by a thick, rolling fog. “Did you see that,” she asks.
“See what,” David replies.
“Everything just… disappeared.”
Glancing out the back window, David replies, “It’s just behind the trees. Anyhow, guess what I got?” He removes the jar with the insect from his jacket, flaunting it before her. “Creepy isn't it? Just like your brother.”
“Eww!” Rachel screeches, pushing his arm away. “Get that hideous thing away from me.”
“You're such an ass,” Jeff says.
“Oh yeah?” David opens the rear sliding door and wind blasts inside the van. He grabs Jeff's food bag and holds it outside and taunts him, “I'm gonna drop it...”
“Give that back,” Jeff yells while trying to reach for it.
“Only if you give the spider a big, fat, kiss.” He laughs while shoving the jar over into Jeff’s face.
Jeff abruptly pulls away. “Get that shit away from me.”
Jennifer turns around in her seat. “Knock it off,” she says when the van abruptly turns off the dirt road, knocking her into the door. Rocks bang into the floorboards and the van rocks, jolting them from side to side. They head down a small path in the forest, and a single headlight pierces through the back window. “What the… What’s happening?”
They vault down a steep, tightening trail, and the forest closes in from all sides. Tree branches screech sharply down the outside of the van, and David tries to jerk the bag back inside, but it is too late. One of the branches yanks it right out from his hand, tearing it open and scattering food over the forest floor.
“Noo,” Jeff yells, swinging at David and knocking the jar right out of his hand.
The jar tumbles to the floor and shatters. The shadowy creature escapes and scrambles up Jeff's pant leg and onto his face. He tries knocking it off, but it clings to his skin with hooked talons and forces its way into his mouth and tunnels down his throat. His chest inflates, cracking as it expands. His skin turns a scaly black, and his body begins growing in size. Two jet-black eyes bulge from his sockets. Thick strands of wiry white hair sprout from his flexing skull along with two thick ramming horns that burst out from both sides of his head. His jawbone clanks wide-open, and an army of serrated teeth bore out from his gums.
Mark floors the gas pedal and cackles madly, “Isn't this fun!”
Rachel and Jennifer scream with horror.
The growing beast roars with a rumbling low-tone and immediately turns to Rachel and devours her entire head in an instant. Her body slumps over onto David, and he shoves her body aside and begins kicking the beast while screaming. Its mouth clanks open, and he pushes away, flipping backwards, and falls outside the open slide door. He spirals into the forest, bashing into trees, and hits an all-terrain vehicle that is following the van.
Mark continues to cackle as the van gains speed. It vaults over rocks and smashes through shifting trees. Pine-needles explode into the air when suddenly they launch over the side of a small ravine. The crimson-washed moon hovers before them reflecting its fiery glow from their eyes. Broken branches topple through the air as they plunge into the darkness below. The van crashes into the ground with tremendous force. Mark smashes headfirst through the windshield, and both front doors blast open, ejecting Jennifer from her seat.
Several yards away from the crashed van is a small campsite with several tents. A blazing fire flickers from the center of it sending shifting shadows over the pine trees. Three men with rifles stand up, cautiously watching over the wreckage. One of them fires their gun, and the bullet punches through both side walls of the van and tumbles through the woods.
Meanwhile, on the opposite of the van, Jennifer lies motionless filled with cuts and bruises when the sound of leaves begin to rustle nearby. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she weakly calls out, “Mark… Mark, is that you?” Rolling over to her side, she tries to focus on the image that is moving towards her.
Limping out from the shadows, Mark collapses to his knees in front of her. He is covered in blood and pain radiates from his bloodshot eyes. His mouth stretches open as a lengthy, black creature climbs out and disappears into the night. He begins coughing up black mucus and gray blisters bubble over his skin, when finally, he timbers over face first into the dirt, dead.
In the distance, a loud pound vibrates throughout the ground. Branches savagely snap as an enormous bull-like beast crashes through the pine trees and roars in a terrifying deep bellow. It leaps over at Mark and sinks several sharp claws into his back, thrusting him away. His body twists and snaps and tumbles heedlessly for several yards and then lays limp, folded in half.
Jennifer becomes paralyzed as the beast inches up to her. Two pearly, jet-black eyes block her vision and toxic fumes from its cavernous mouth poison the air. Its lower jaw clanks down and a putrid, warm stench envelopes her head. Blood-soaked saliva drips into her hair, and she closes her eyes tightly.
A sharp, piercing pain races through her chest, and she lets out a garbled shriek. Darkness shrouds her world for several minutes. She helplessly floats through an empty void when suddenly she is struck by a blinding, violet light. Timeless understanding bombards her mind as she awakens back inside the van with Mark, David, Rachel, and Jeff.
They inch up the steep mountain pass, and a dark fog races across the road. A deeper gloom blankets the night sky, and the stars stop twinkling. Jennifer trembles, trying to grasp what had just happened. “...town,” she squeaks not realizing why she said it then gazes over at Mark.
He asks, “How many times have you been up here?”
Saddened, she is struck by the terrifying realization that she has relived the entire event over and over. A tear forms in her eye and she replies, “Enough times to know… That it will never end.”
Genre – SciFi Horror
Rating – PG-13
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