As a child, the urban legend terrified her

   As an adult, she dismissed it

      Now, she's running for her life... 

THE BEAST

       The road is deserted. It’s 1955, and he’s driving an old, yellow Buick somewhere in Arizona, trying to make California before morning. Seeing movement out of the corner of his eye, he glances out the passenger side window. A man is running alongside the car, keeping pace with it. Shock jerks the driver backward in his seat. He checks his speed—sixty miles an hour.

       “A mile a minute,” he whispers. Again, he glances out the window. The man is wearing buckskin, moccasins, and a feather. He turns and smiles revealing war paint, the top half of his face red, with vertical white and black lines extending downward. As the driver watches, the man’s head morphs into the head of a wolf his pointed canine teeth growing until they are four…six inches long.

       The driver steps on the gas. The thing jumps—over the car—and lands on the driver’s side, still running, still keeping pace. Frantically, the driver floors it. It’s August, in Arizona, and ice crystals are growing on the windshield. The driver reaches down to turn on the defrost, but his fingers don’t work. They’re too numb from the cold. He blows on them. Still, they don’t work. He can’t see the road. He puts his index finger and his thumb in his mouth furiously sucking until his fingers thaw enough to turn on the defrost.

       He peers through the thawing ice, searching for the lights of another car, praying that someone will come along in the opposing lane and kill the thing. He gets it up to eighty, and it’s still beside the car. The driver is violently shivering; the tips of his pinkies are black. Fear has him gripping the steering wheel so hard he almost breaks his own fingers. A high-pitched whine, like a dog in pain, is coming from the engine. The right front wheel is vibrating furiously.

       The needle creeps up to ninety. Still, the beast is beside the car running effortlessly. The driver comes to a town, small, real small, but it has one of those Old West style saloons. It’s even got a long front porch and two rocking chairs out front. Suddenly, the heinous creature vanishes, so the man gets out and runs for the door, smashing it open.

       Inside are some guys at the bar, two shooting pool, and some others sitting at tables. It's a rather peaceful place. The theme from Marlboro Country is playing in the background. The driver looks behind him, sighing with relief. He’s alone. No one followed him in. Everyone in the bar is staring at him. Still panting he smooths down his sweater-vest and tries to stop shivering. His fingers throb like they’ve been run over by a semi.

       Relieved he goes to the bar, orders a beer, changes it to whiskey, then two whiskeys, "leave the bottle," he says. As he drinks, as his hands slowly stop shaking, when he's able to talk again without stuttering like an idiot, he tells the bartender the story about the wolf-thing running alongside his car. Maybe if he'd been less scared, or if the Navajo were given to more showy dress, he might have noticed that everyone in there is dark-skinned but him. As he talks—not loud mind you, just in a normal voice—the whole place goes quiet, and the dudes shooting pool come over and sit at the bar.

 

       When the driver’s finished telling his tale, the bartender looks toward the end of the bar where a guy is pretty well drunk and says, "Better bring the boy in—Now." Then he pulls a shotgun out from behind the bar, hands it to another fellow, and says, "Go with him, DT."

       "You think a gun's going to help?" DT asks.

       "If you don't want it…”

       DT takes it. He and the drunk, plus two more, go out and bring in a sleeping child. Seems the drunk had his four-year-old waiting for him in his car.

       By this time, Buick-guy is losing it. Every man in the place is locking windows. Two go to check the windows in the kitchen and the back door. Behind the bar, the bartender calls his wife, tells her he won't be home until morning. Then he whispers a name into the phone.

       "What's going on?" Buick-guy shouts.

       Finally, the bartender tells him. "You were being hunted."

       “By what?”

       “Something old.”

       The drunk guy—someone’s given him a gun and he’s loading it—says, “In my grandfather’s day the tribe got a Catholic priest to hold an exorcism.”

       “You believe that?” DT asks. He shakes his head; rolls his eyes. “The tribe never called a priest.”

       The drunk guy finishes loading the gun.

       “So what happened?” Buick-guy asks. “You know, with the priest?”

       The drunk raises one hand in the air—half of a shrug. “Haven’t seen the priest.”

       “Will locking the doors will keep him out?”

 

       Now, DT shrugs. He glances over at the bartender and back at Buick-guy. “You rather we unlock them?”

       They all bed down in the bar, loaded guns beside them. As Buick-guy tries and fails to fall asleep, DT whispers, "You were lucky, white man. Not many survive who have seen the Beast."