They Found the Moon and They Say It'll Never Come Back

“You don’t look good.” I noticed.
“Hm-hm.” Sam answered, trying to put the least strain on her sore throat. She’d been waiting for the moment the tea had cooled down enough to drink, hoping it would soothe the scratching sensation.
“I can call you in sick.”
She nodded her head. I called her workplace and informed them and they reminded me to get a doctor’s note should she be sick for longer.
We finished breakfast and I prepared to leave for work. I asked Sam if I should pick anything up on my way home but she just shook her head and laid down.
“Get well soon.” I said. With car keys and garage opener in hand, I closed the door behind me. As soon as I did, I had to fight the urge to run.

It was an old habit of mine. I don’t know when it started or why, but since I was a child riding my bike to school, I would try to not be seen by anyone on my way from the front door to the garage. Especially cars. I grew up in the quiet countryside, where we never had many cars going by our house. I could usually make the short trip without incident but in the few cases a car was driving down the road, I was alerted in time by the noise of the tires rubbing over the rough road. I admittedly sometimes rolled under the automatic garage door when it didn’t open fast enough though.

Since moving in with my wife, whose work began at the same time as mine, I of course didn’t indulge this stupid urge. Fortunately, no cars have rolled by on our excruciatingly slow walks to our cars yet. We still lived out in the country.

So when I stood out there on my own again, hearing a car make its way down the road, it was time to prove I’ve left behind this childish game.
I dashed towards the garage, finger on the door button, so it would start opening its maw as soon as the signal got within reach.

I ducked behind my car and heard the noisy wheels roll by without ever catching a glimpse of me. I sure looked stupid, but the whole point of it was that it wasn’t seen by anybody, so I didn’t worry about it. I got in my car and drove out. It didn’t matter who saw me if I was in a car. I was safe in there.

The next day, Sam still looked like crap. She laid on the couch, under a blanket, eating cheap spicy chips, which were the only food she still enjoyed in her sick state. I didn’t question it. I told her to enjoy her day off and left for work. No car drove by.

However, one did when I returned in the afternoon. The afternoons were a bit trickier, as pressing the garage opener button was much quicker than sticking in a key and turning it enough times to unlock the door. Lucky for me, Sam stayed home all day, so there had been no need to lock it, I thought. It still was. As the car sounds got closer, I was forced to fumble my keys back out of my pockets, stick them in the keyhole, using my other hand to guide the end of the key into the hole, twist it frantically and slip inside without taking the time to pull the key back out. My chest smacked against the door painfully, but I waited for the car to drive out of sight before opening the door again to retrieve the keys.

“Are we in trouble?” Sam asked, standing in the entry hall.
“No, no, don’t worry!” I pushed past her to hang up the keys and act normal.
“Who was that driving past?”
“I don’t know. Doesn’t matter.” I really didn’t want to give her anything to tease me with.
Sam was sick of using her voice, so she dropped it.

She wasn’t feeling any better the next day. Nothing unusual, these things can take a week to run their course. As I stood outside the house alone once again, I was determined to not act a fool anymore. It was one thing to have Sam think I was a dumbass, but I was worried I actually scared her yesterday. I heard a car approaching but did not quicken my step. As I reached the driveway, I pressed the button to open the garage. The car stopped.

As did I. Before I could turn my head, I heard a door open. I saw the shiny black car, motor running, standing in the middle of the road. The backseat door was opened and before it stood a man. He looked like the Monopoly man but with visible signs of age.

“Need a ride?” he asked.
The loud mechanism of the garage door stopped as it finished opening.
“No, thank you.” I said. An automated response, like the ‘Hello’ on a telephone.
The man didn’t react. Kept standing there, smiling like he spotted an old friend, waiting for me to change my mind.
I stepped inside the garage, blocking each other from view. I didn’t hear a car door snap shut or wheels drive off. I waited until I couldn’t bear it anymore. I stepped back out. He still stood there. I saw two more sitting in the front of the car, giving me that same open-mouthed stare. I walked back to the front door as their heads turned to follow me.
“I really don’t need a ride, thank you!” I reiterated, door handle in hand. Still no reaction. I got inside.

“Vanessa, who are those?” Sam had been watching from the window.
“I have no idea.” I didn’t dare letting them out my sight as I locked the door.
“What did they say to you?”
“Asked me to get in the car, I guess.”
“I think we should get some knives from the kitchen and sic the police on them.”
“Don’t you think they’d anticipate that’s what we’d do inside the house? They’re still just standing there. I’m not sure if that one empty seat in the back was reserved for you.”

It was really like her to keep a cool head in such a situation. Still, my plan was the best option. We carefully entered the kitchen, checked under the table and bench from a safe distance away and armed ourselves with the most intimidating knives in our arsenal. I picked up the phone from the window sill and dialed up the police. I kept an eye on our backyard, in case the possible fourth one tried to sneak in from around the back, while keeping the back door unlocked in case he had already made it inside.

I told the police our address without incident. I had expected they’d ask me to stay on the phone to be kept updated but they simply told me to find a safe place and hide until the forces arrive. Me and Sam went back to the front, to watch the three in the car, while the other kept eyes inside.

The car was gone. The police showed up one and a half hour later. Sam had memorized their license plate, but it was just a string of nonsense that couldn’t be traced back to anything. I called in at work and explained what happened and stayed home the rest of the day. We slept with our two wardrobes blocking the bedroom door and window. Slept two hours at most.

I pushed the wardrobes back into place in the morning. We had breakfast like usual. Sam was still sick, but trying hard to pull it together. I wasn’t going to leave her alone at home.
“We should get a doctor’s note today.”
Given the circumstances, sitting in a waiting room for two hours wasn’t all that unappealing. I already planned to pretend I got infected too for my workplace. We locked any door and window in the house before getting out the front and locking it too.

I heard wheels on stone. I wasn’t going to feel silly for it anymore. I immediately pulled my keys back out of my jacket and stuck them back in the door. Before I could twist them once, I heard the car door snap open. They definitely did not drive the allowed thirty miles.

“Need a ride?”

I pulled the key back out. There were three keys on my keyring and I placed them between my fingers, for whatever good it did. I took Sam’s hand and walked towards the garage. They let me get there last time. We’d be safe in the car. My thumb found the button on the garage opener, then the one on my car key. The lights flashed up as it unlocked. Sam practically jumped onto the passenger’s seat and I locked the doors as soon as they were closed behind us, sticking the key in the ignition and feeling a slight sense of relief as the car came alive.

I expected the man to get back in the car and chase us. For the fourth one to pop up in the backseat. None of that happened. We got to the doctor’s office and sat in the waiting room. It felt like we never expected to get there. Sam got her sick note and I wasn’t looking much better than her at that point, so I got one too.

The car was once again gone when we returned home. No windows smashed in or doors broken open. Though at this point it was hard to believe we were up against ordinary people that would resort to such things.

The next day, none of us left the house. They drove up to our house and all three waited patiently in their car. I waited at the window. Waiting for someone else to drive by, get annoyed at them for blocking the road. Of course it didn’t happen. They left in the evening. The following day I got out with a video camera. At this point I knew the man wouldn’t do anything other than stand by the car and ask me to get in. I knew the pattern and felt safe as long as I didn’t step on the road. Still, I only dared to do that once. I’m not an idiot. I sent the video to the police, the press, Youtube, anywhere that could help. But it’s not like these people were doing anything supernatural. Anything that couldn’t be staged. No one really cared, aside from some kids on youtube thinking it’s some slow-burn indie horror project. Those were the only ones that found anything creepy with the man.

The doctor was generous enough to give us sick leave until the end of next week, so I had enough time to try anything to get these assholes out of our lives in a way that wouldn’t get us killed. Which I deemed to be anything that wouldn’t initiate a fight with a normal person, like throwing rocks at them. I sat down on a garden chair and stared back at them, but they never asked me a second time or did anything at all. I tried offering them a ride instead, but they didn’t react to that either. The week passed and we got used to our watchers. Every day from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM without lunch breaks After that they’d give up for the day. Sam recovered from her sickness and I felt only annoyance, no more fear.

That Monday, we casually walked to our cars. I had no need to play my game anymore. I’ve been spotted already anyways. I got in the car and turned left out of our driveway. Sam had to squeeze past the black car to the right. I wasn’t sure if I’d like them to park closer to the house. As I turned again onto the country road, I looked in the rearview mirror, to check on the car in front of our house one last time.

“Thanks for the offer.”
A suited man I didn’t recognize smiled at me. The fourth one. He was the biggest of them. His cheeks were round with red spots. What was I supposed to do? Crash the car? Stop and get out? I kept driving like I had planned to. Seemed like the best plan still. I figured I should try and talk to him. I got a different sentence out of him and if I entertained him, maybe I could stall whatever he was planning to do with me.
“So, where to?”
“Anywhere is fine.” I appreciated that he turned to stare out of the window. I didn’t want to drive him to my workplace, but I didn’t want to anger him by throwing him out in the middle of nowhere.
“Really, anywhere?” I asked.
“Anywhere is fine.”
I decided to take a detour and let him out at a museum at the edge of town. That should be a satisfactory destination.

After a few minutes I rolled up on the parking lot there.
“Is here fine?”
“The Museum of Electric Energy. How exciting. Thank you, ma’am.” he got out of the car and seemed eager to learn about renewable energy. I just hoped there wasn’t a fifth guy in Sam’s car. I got late to work but texted her as soon as I was able. All was fine on her end. We both got home without any passengers.

For the rest of the week, it was only the black car in front of the house. It didn’t make room on the road and there were no guys hitching any more rides. I made sure not to offer one again.

On the weekend, Sam and I decided to drive to the next town over and try out a new restaurant that opened there. It was a fun and relaxed evening and we managed to forget all about the creepy men watching our house.

It was raining as we got back to the car. The yellowing trees around the parking lot were engulfed by the night sooner than expected as winter approached, so by the time we drove home, the sun had already completely vacated the sky. The moon barely shone through the clouds. I always enjoyed being in a car while it rained, but not at night. All sorts of lights reflected off the wet road and I had a hard time telling which way it crept through the land. I drove slower, half anticipating another man to appear in the backseat and scare me.

Another car caught up to me. I was relieved to see that it was a bigger car than the one stalking us. It was visibly annoyed with my speed but I decided to stick to my tempo and let it overturn me. It did. However, it misjudged the distance to the oncoming traffic and had to fall back in line before getting all the way past us, forcing me to swerve to give it the space for re-entry. The oncoming car honked furiously as it drove past. As I tried to properly position myself back on the road, a wheel got caught on something and I lost control of the car.

My brain only bother to try and realize what happened when the motion stopped. I could tell the car laid on its side. I felt the cold night air. Broken glass rustled as I moved. I checked for injuries by touch, as none of the lights on the car worked anymore. My limbs were sore, but intact. It hurt, but I could take full breaths. I tried to open the door. The motion caused the tree the car was leaning on to snap under the weight, causing the car to land back on its wheels with a painful impact.

“Sam?” I asked. My jaw felt like it had been replaced with a rock. I unbuckled and dropped out of the car. Glass stabbed into my palms. I got up and circled the car to open the passenger’s seat. I unbuckled my wife and stopped myself from trying to shake her awake.
“Wha?” she mumbled, like she just woke up from deep sleep. I checked her for injuries. I wasn’t an expert, but wasn’t there something about the stomach turning hard when there was internal bleeding?

I walked up to the road. The moon reflected in the puddles. I looked up to see the rain clouds dissipating. I found an even spot in the grass without glass shards and brought Sam there. Blood leaked out of her mouth. I placed her on my jacket in recovery position so she wouldn’t choke on it, then took off my sweater too, to place it over her. I got out my phone but it was snapped in half. There were no lights up or down the street. I could feel myself slowly giving in to the panic. My composure bouncing between my hands as I was trying to catch it.

“Need a ride?”
Lights flickered on. The car just suddenly stood there in the fading rain. A man standing outside an open backseat door.
“We need to get to a hospital.” I coughed up.
“I’m sorry, we only got one seat free.” the man by the door said. “...But no worries. I’m sure I can catch a ride.”

I wasn’t thinking about it too hard. I was offered a straw and I wouldn’t wait for a longer one to come along. I knew in my heart that no other cars ever drove by when this one stood on the road. It was my only chance. I picked up Sam and carried her across the street, into the car. I took the seat next to her. The third man waved after us as we left him behind.

I welcomed the feeling of safety. I didn’t want to doubt that we would be brought to the hospital. That all would be well.

“Our friend was very grateful to you for lending him a ride.” the one at the wheel said. He glanced back for a second. “He told you anywhere is fine, but you went out of your way to bring him someplace special. I want to extend the same courtesy to you.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Your wife will die at the hospital. It is too far away, they are not equipped to save her. But I know someone closer by.”
“Wait, what? Where are you bringing us?” I leaned forward as much as the safety belt allowed. The road was shrouded in darkness, I couldn’t see where we were. The car stopped at the side and the two in the front got out. I undid the seatbelt and jumped out the door, as the driver removed my wife from the car.

The road we stood on separated a forest from farm fields. The driver carried Sam towards a shack beneath the trees. Light shone out through a grimy window in the door.
“What the fuck is this?” I limped after him but the other passenger stopped me.
“Please wait here. We aren’t supposed to bring anyone inside. Moon 17 will be in a better mood if it’s just one.”
I ignored him. I saw a peek inside as the door swung closed behind the driver. A well lit hallway. I had to see what was inside. What were these people? The passenger tried to block me but I pushed him onto the ground. He didn’t pose an obstacle. I pushed the door open with the weight of my body. The driver stood there with empty arms.
“Where’s S-”
Arms grabbed me from behind and painfully held my mouth shut.
“Be quiet, don’t let her hear you!” he hissed into my ear.
The pain kept me from making a sound. He pushed me towards the driver, turning me to face another windowed door which he stood before. This one was clean, so I could see through. I saw Sam on a chair. Bloodless clothing. All wounds gone. In a matter of seconds.
“You can see, she is alright, but don’t make a sound. I’m sorry if I hadn’t earned your trust.” the passenger whispered to me. I only heard the words, didn’t decode their meaning. I was captivated by the being in front of Sam.

It was a stick figure of dark red color, made of gnarled sinews, twisted and wrung into thin wires that formed the body. Its head was the size of a golf ball, with an insectoid shape, as far as I could make out. Like a humanoid stick bug wrapped in dried strips of meat. A mask howered before the comically small head, white sheet flowing down from it, hiding its true form from my wife.

I didn’t ask what I was looking at. Not because they told me to keep quiet but because I couldn’t imagine that was something that could be explained to me in words. It spoke with my wife. I saw her lips move. I was mesmerized. I wasn’t sure how long I stood there, watching the twig limbs move in the uncanny way you would expect from an overgrown insect. Long enough for the adrenaline to wear off and my body to assume I had found a place to rest. The passenger dragged me back to the car before I could fall unconscious and smack the door open with my face. I refused to fall asleep before I could see Sam in the seat next to me though. She was asleep when the driver placed her next to me.

I woke back up on a parking lot. One of the car men gently pulled me out of the car. I could see rows of windows, some still lit up and recognized the hospital.
“Come now. Can you make it over there on your own?” he asked as he picked up my wife.
“Yeah.” My mouth felt worse than before.
I stumbled across the parking lot, the passenger next to me, holding my wife, still asleep.
“We might not meet again in a while.” he said.
“Moon 17 found we made a mistake that led us back to you every day. That wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“What are you supposed to do?” I was surprised he could understand my slurred speech.
“Offer rides to those in need. We never saw you get in a car, so we were left to assume you needed some help.”
“Why do you do that?”
“We weren’t told.”
What is Moon 17?”
“I don’t know.”

We reached the entrance to the hospital, stopping short of the area that would activate the automatic doors.

“I’m just glad you can say more than one sentence.”
“I came to see you as a friend when you offered us a ride. We can speak more openly among friends. You sure ask strange questions.”
“Just promise me you aren’t going to harm anyone.”
“We do what Moon 17 orders us to do.”
I nodded with frustration. No satisfying answers from this guy. He placed Sam in my arms.
“I’m afraid you will have to carry her the rest of the way.”
He walked off without a goodbye. I didn’t make the effort to wish him one either. I carried Sam inside.

I woke up with my jaw considerably less swollen. Sam waited by my bed. She smiled as she saw me with open eyes.
“Don’t worry, you’re in the hospital. Everything’s fine.” she explained. “Though, I suppose you knew that, you carried my unconscious ass in here.”
The dryness in my mouth still made my voice sound horrible as I laughed. Sam gave me a glass of water.
“What do you remember?” I asked.
“I don’t even remember crashing. Just vaguely getting into the car. It was scary news but we’re both alive and in one piece. I can’t really be upset about that.”
“No weird dreams while you were unconscious?”
“No. Did you dream something weird?”
I sunk into the pillow, staring at the ceiling. It was sometimes hard to discern dream from reality, but I never had trouble discerning reality from dream. Yesterday night was real, I was certain.
“I’ll tell you at home.” I decided. “When can I leave?”
“We could go today, but the doctors will want to talk to you before, about everything you aren’t allowed to do. How to take your painkillers and all.”
We took a moment to enjoy the silence.
“I saw photos from the wreck. Windows got shattered and its all crumpled up. Not a hollywood crash in any sense but still, seeing your own car like that… The passenger’s seat was full of blood. But there wasn’t a scratch on me.”
“I think we had a guardian angel.”
Sam took my hand, rubbing her thumb over its back.
“You are mine and I’m yours. I’ll do a better job next time, I swear.” she said and leaned in for a kiss.