WILLOW ROAD • by Lindsey R. Loucks

The sky spits snow through the crack in my window. It pricks my fingers which are curled tight over the steering wheel, but I barely notice. I squint past my little brother and look for the numbers ‘16128’ somewhere on the next house.

“Two, six, … eight?” I read. Snow has collected in the curves of the numbers. I can’t tell if that’s an eight or the rounded edge of a mailbox.

My brother displays the numbers I just said on his fingers. “Ninety-six.”

I take a puff on my Virginia Slim and hold the cherry up to the slip of paper with my stepmom’s directions scrawled across it. “Jesus, are we even on the right road?”

My brother sighs and clasps his hands over the tip of his tie.

“Help me look, Nathan. What’s the street sign say?”

He stares straight ahead through the windshield and tilts his head like he’s listening to something. Snowflakes burst when they fall on the glass. The wipers smear through them.

I bite the inside of my cheek and step on the gas until we get to an intersection. The snow catches the glow of my headlights and makes it look like we’re traveling at warp speed.  I touch the brake. We slide through the stop sign, but no one’s coming.

Steam from our breath clings to the windows. I use my coat sleeve to brush it away. “Stop breathing so much.” The green road sign sways in a rush of wind. “Willow Road. This is the right one. So help me look.”

I drive on, figuring the next block is the three hundreds. “Three, four, eight,” I read over the top of Nathan’s head.

He works his fingers to the numbers again and tilts his head to the other side. “Ninety… six.” A crease puckers his forehead.

I smack him on the arm and point out the window. “Would you stop multiplying and help me look?”

He blinks. His crease deepens.

We creep forward, the tires crunching on the snow. I wonder for the millionth time what’s going on in that bizarre brain of his. And why none of these houses have lights on inside. “Three, eight, four,” I say.

“Ninety — ”

“Six.” I stare at the odometer. 9696. That’s not right. Can’t be. A chill pebbles my skin under my dress even though the heater is cranked. I flick my cigarette out and push the button to put up my window. “Nathan? What’s with ninety-six?”

His face is pale. He swallows, then shakes his head.

I stop the car at the base of a steep hill to look at him. “What’s wrong?”

He curls his fingers around the edges of his seat, gripping it tight.

I shake my head and step on the gas. The tires spin and moan over the snow. “Shit.”

Nathan lets out a trembling breath.

Dark shadows, darker than the street, glide behind the swirling snow. Coming down the hill. Lots of shadows. The sudden cold in the car scratches my throat with each quick breath.

I shift into reverse and smash the gas, but we aren’t moving. The headlight beams jab through the dark and up the hill. A row of pale faces materializes out of the shadows and drifts closer.

What the hell? I push the button to lock the doors, ram the car into drive, and sink my foot on the gas. More spinning, groaning tires.

The wipers rub through the snow, but not the faces. Another row appears behind the first. And another. They all glide closer. Their bodies aren’t right. The headlights shine through them.

I glance at the door handle, then at Nathan. Tears slide down his cheeks. He displays ninety-six on his fingers, again and again.

The rows of faces slip past my side of the car. Their eyes are black, their expressions empty. Nine rows of ten people pass by, snow blowing right through them. Ninety.

Plus four. Right in front of the car’s hood.

Nathan whimpers. “Ninety-four.”

I try not to look at the four things staring at us through the windshield and creep a trembling hand into my coat pocket for my phone. There’s no Christmas party at 16128 Willow Road. And my stepmom knows it.

No one moves. Except my fingers over 9-1-1. But I think I tap the one too many times.

Then the car doors burst open.

Nathan gasps.

Ice clenches my heart until I can’t breathe.

Ninety-six.


Lindsey R. Loucks writes horror, dark comedy, and whatever else she can think up. She is currently querying her second young adult novel. Her short stories have appeared in Work Literary Magazine and Weirdyear, and will appear in future issues of The Red Asylum and Yellow Mama.


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 average 5 stars • 3 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Wendy T

    It’s 9 in the morning here and bright sunshine – and I have shivers down my spine – lovely!

    If I wanted to be really picky I would ask for only one of the ‘shake his head’, ‘shake my head’ phrases as the second jarred on me, being so close to the first – but maybe this was intentional? And when ‘Nathan whimpers’, I don’t feel I need the ‘ninety four’ – the count makes it clear without rubbing it in and he’s more powerful with just the key number, I think.

    But I am being really picky.

    The tension just keep rising and I’d love to get my hands on that evil stepmom.

    I enjoyed this a lot. Thank you.

  • Lilias

    I have to agree with the first comment – morning, bright sunshine and shivers down my spine! I could feel the claustrophobia building in the car, the sense of isolation that being out in a snowstorm brings, the gradual increase of tension (which I actually felt was aided by the repetition and then the sudden ‘ninety four’ but that’s me personally).

    Great story, thank you!

  • Wow, this gave me a shiver at the end. My son is autistic and fixates on numbers, so this struck me as something strangely personal. Nicely done.

  • Rose Gardener

    Chilling in every way. I needed that 94 to work out they were the missing two, so it worked perfectly for me. I do hate horror! Now I have to go and warm up and try not to think about all the coincidental numbers in life…brr.

  • Rob

    Good description of the frustration of trying to find an address in a snow storm. The horror part was creepy, but simply left me asking, ‘so, what was all that about?’ The Christmas party degenerated into a spookananny? It would’ve been more powerful if there had been some hint of an explanation.
    Still well written though, thanks.

  • JenM

    Wow. That was definitly good horror. I also wondered why the stwp-mother sent them therem was she trying to kill them? But knowing much more might’ve made the story less scary and spoil it’s enjoyment.

  • Gretchen

    Very creepy, with some excellent descriptions. The “94” worked very well, really gave me a strong sense of foreboding. I do agree with Rob, though, that there needed to be some explanation, just some hint or clue as to why the step-mom intentionally sent these people to their deaths. Other than that, this was a really strong piece.

  • Lindsey continues to amaze me! I love reading everything she writes. 🙂

    Mysti

  • joannab.

    i applaud the horror of it and the description of the shadows, and the setting of the whole scene. i wish that perhaps it had not been the “evil stepmom” who sent them to their deaths but someone more out of the ordinary, like who? someone bullying nathan? the “evil social worker?” never mind. this story is a job well done.

  • Autumn

    Good one!

  • I think you should see this. It’s a story called ‘The Casual Adventures of Ambiguous’. It’s update every Monday.

    http://calebrechten.blogspot.com/

    I hope you enjoy it!

  • I think you should see this. It’s an ongoing story called ‘The Casual Adventures of Ambiguous’. It’s updated every Monday.

    http://calebrechten.blogspot.com/

    I hope you enjoy it!

  • this sentence is ambiguous and it took me some time to work it out:” My brother displays the numbers I just said on his fingers”

    chilling at the end.
    well done

  • A very good story — it pulled me in completely. Excellent depiction of the snow and the frustration of trying to find an address.

    I do share some of Rob’s (#5) confusion about the lack of an underlying explanation (and bonus points to him for “spookananny” — I laughed aloud at this).

    I also wondered how Nathan was displaying “96” on his hands — like flashing nine fingers and then six? Or shaping the nine and six like gang signs? Not sure why I mentally stumbled over this — maybe my own number-centric personality?

    But overall a creepy read that I definitely enjoyed.

  • vondrakker

    3 ***

  • Constance Anderson

    Great description of trying to find a street # in a snowstorm. Excellent twist at the end. I was nearly finished with the story before I figured out what was going on.

  • Creepy? Yes. Confusing? Yes – for me, anyway.

    I was taken out of the story a bit when I found out (halfway through the story) the narrator was wearing a dress. To me I had already pictured an elder brother!

    That aside, an engaging, goosebumpy ride.

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  • I came to this through a backdoor rabbit hole three years late. I loved the voice in this, and as I read it I let any confusing elements pass by which heightened the frustration in the MC’s voice, imagining the swirling snow, the brother and his signing, the creep of the transparent figures. I think if I were watching this in movie form I would feel the same from the visuals. I got some kind of auto-erotic literary rush from the story as it revealed.

    The one thing I didn’t understand was the word “cherry.” – “I take a puff on my Virginia Slim and hold the cherry up to the slip of paper with my stepmom’s directions scrawled across it.”

    • I think that is the burning end of the cigarette. Glowing so she could see the directions, maybe?

      • That could work, makes sense, new term to me. Thanks!

  • I came to this through a backdoor rabbit hole three years late. I loved the voice in this, and as I read it I let any confusing elements pass by which heightened the frustration in the MC’s voice, imagining the swirling snow, the brother and his signing, the creep of the transparent figures. I think if I were watching this in movie form I would feel the same from the visuals. I got some kind of auto-erotic literary rush from the story as it revealed.

    The one thing I didn’t understand was the word “cherry.” – “I take a puff on my Virginia Slim and hold the cherry up to the slip of paper with my stepmom’s directions scrawled across it.”

    • I think that is the burning end of the cigarette. Glowing so she could see the directions, maybe?

      • That could work, makes sense, new term to me. Thanks!

  • S Conroy

    Brilliant!