Noah and Terri bobbed their heads while the wub-wub-wub-wub of dubstep from the stereo shook the car with each thunderous wave. The picnic basket for the day’s festivities sat between them. They had been driving for what seemed like forever; Terri kicked off her sandals long ago and had her freshly manicured feet protruding from the opened window. After a week of her boss’s bullshit, she needed this little vacation and had to practically beg Noah to take her out on a picnic. And now here they were, not a care in the world, due for a day of fun and relaxation.
They hadn’t spoken for the entire car ride, so Terri just kept looking out of the window at the passing scenery. She saw the usual: careless children, suburban trees, asphalt, blah blah blah. But after a while, she began to notice something strange.
Every once in a while she would notice a raccoon. At first she waved it off, but before she knew it, one raccoon became two, and two became three, and then she quickly lost count. As if seeing them wasn’t strange enough, a few would chase after the car, or some would even stand on their hind legs and point. When they stopped at a stoplight, Terri saw what looked like three more raccoons engaging in conversation before chasing after the car. She couldn’t hold her silence any longer.
She looked over to Noah “Hey, you see that?”
He didn’t hear her over the blasting dubstep, so she punched him on the bicep.
He rubbed his newly numb arm and turned down the radio.”Ow! What was that for?”
“Look over there,” Terri said, pointing out the raccoons standing on the corner. “They’re usually not out like this in the daytime, right?”
Noah’s eyes grew as wide as dinner plates. “Uh, don’t worry about it, it’s probably just a coincidence.”
His hands shook as he turned back to the road ahead. He started to tap the steering wheel and let out a sigh of relief once the light turned green. He darted his gaze toward Terri again before adding “Do not look at them.”
They had long left the image of suburbia behind and were now cruising through a rural environment with less houses and more trees. They drove along smooth black asphalt with what looked like freshly painted white lines. Terri sat up in her seat and looked into the mirror as she applied mascara to her eyes when she saw them – more raccoons. This time, there were maybe thirty of them chasing the car in a menacing shadow of a group.
“Noah.” she said, gesturing to the raccoons with the mascara brush.
Noah stole a glance through the rearview mirror and shot to attention. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of this.” he said through gritted teeth and punched the gas, leaving the raccoons behind in a plume of environmentally damaging smoke.
The one lane road took them on a drive through a forest with trees as far as the eye could see. The drive through the woods had been as smooth and clear as a newborn’s thighs. The dubstep had been discarded long ago for the favorable sounds of nature and the whoosh of air passing through the windows. Terri’s eyes were beginning to drift into a sleep, closing shut…
“OH HELL NO!” screamed Noah, jolting Terri into alert. A few yards ahead of them the bushes were moving and a large gathering of raccoons emerged and scurried to completely block the road. Terri looked in the rearview mirror and saw even more raccoons emerging behind them, forming a barricade at the bumper. Before long the car was surrounded by at least a three hundred raccoons. Noah’s eyes were wide with panic as he had no choice but to bring the car to a screeching halt. Goosebumps sprouted all over Terri’s arms and she turned to Noah for support. Something like this would make anyone nervous, but Noah’s body shook as if he was being tasered.
The raccoons grew in size, with their bodies bulging and morphing, which made Terri squirm in her seat. It was an uncomfortable sight, but she couldn’t pry her eyes away. She couldn’t believe the sight before her – every single raccoon had transformed into a human, each with a loincloth like woodland versions of Tarzan, though they still had their bushy tails. They were wielding spears with bows and arrows pointed at the car.
“Step out of the car!” shouted a raccoon, err, man who looked like the general of the bunch. “I said, step out the car!”
Noah and Terri popped open the doors and did as they were told.
“Lay on your belly, woman, and stay there.”
Terri complied and looked on as the men snatched Noah by his arms and shoved him against a nearby tree. They had moved quite a few yards away from her, but she was able to hear bits and pieces of the conversation.
“Yo, it wasn’t my fault. How many times do you want me to say I’m sorry?” she heard Noah scream out. The raccoon men had his faced pressed into the tree bark.
“Our kind never forget the wrongs committed against us, human.” The leader spat out the final word like it was a curse, emphasizing every last syllable.
“But it was a long time ago, so just let me go. I learned my lesson.” Terri couldn’t see his face, but the choke of his voice told her that Noah was in tears.
Among the screaming and shouting, Terri noticed another sound, a humming noise. She swiveled her head and saw that Noah had left the engine running. She turned her head back toward the raccoons and they all had their eyes on Noah. There weren’t any more of them blocking the road. She had to act quickly.
Terri pushed herself to her feet with her hands and dashed for the driver’s seat. She slammed the door just as the men caught sight of her. Squeezing the wheel for dear life, she stomped on the pedal and sped away from the scene, Noah’s desperate hollering filling the air with a throaty scream. She sped down the road and watched until Noah and the raccoon men were no longer visible in the rearview mirror.
She didn’t feel the slightest tinge of guilt. Noah was just some guy who gave her free rides, a trailer park meth addict. She reached into the picnic basket, took out an apple, and bit it. The world would probably be better off without him. Whatever. I guess more food for me.