The snow was coming down in an unnatural speed. Within the first fifteen minutes of snowfall, the ground had at least a foot of snow. Heather held on tight to Ric’s sides as he drove his snowmobile up the road. She couldn’t keep her eyes open enough to see the path they were taking, but tried to keep track of their turns in her head as she went. Unfortunately she didn’t know the roads like she used to. The temperature in the air took such a sudden drop that her skin almost felt numb for a second, before it finally adjusted. She had to keep her head down as well, otherwise she could feel the wind and the snow throwing her off the snowmobile. She was wishing she had her own goggles right about now.
They twisted and turned, Heather all the while keeping track of their course, and finally, the snowmobile stopped. She looked up, and found herself staring into Ric’s crazily reflective goggles. “We’re here.” Ric said in his low grovelly voice. “Let’s find you a hat.”
He motioned for Heather to step off the snowmobile, which she happily obliged, and Ric stood up, immediately taking out his taser and pointing towards the house in front of them. “Like I said, I’ve never been in here before, so I don’t know what… or who… is in there. We have to be careful.”
“Listen, I get that you think showing me is going to help me understand things around here better, but can’t you at least try to tell me what’s up?” Heather could feel her frustration welling up inside again. She didn’t like surprises, or the unknown. “It would help me out a little if you could describe what… or who… we could possibly find in there.”
“Alright then. I’ll try to keep in short, can’t lose any more daylight.” Ric adjusted his coat and thought for a moment about what he would say. Then he looked at Heather. “The people here, they’re okay. From what I’ve seen, they’re okay. But whatever has taken a hold of this island, it’s changed them in a way that is not helpful to people like us.”
“Like us?” Heather thought she saw a curtain move in one of the house’s windows. Another trick of the mind, she thought to herself.
“They seem fine, physically, but mentally… they can’t talk to me, and they definitely don’t want me around. In the beginning I tried getting close more often, but then I quickly realized that they just want to kill me. It’s like they’ve become some kind of monster. But they’re not.” Ric looked at Heather sideways and raised a brow. “Do you know what I mean?” Heather continued to stare blankly at Ric’s face.
Ric sighed. “They’re being controlled. I don’t know how, and I really don’t know why, but they are. My theory? Someone’s taken over this island, and they’ve found someway to control the people here. Why it hasn’t affected you… or me, for that matter… has baffled me. But in any case, I haven’t killed a single soul since being here. That’s why we need to use these tasers. They’re set low enough to not cause any damage, and I’m afraid a blow to the head just to knock someone out would cause more.”
“Okay then.” Heather took in what Ric was saying to her and started to feel a little more confident about entering the house. “So the people, they’re not themselves. They try to kill you when you’re around them. But they physically look normal to you.” I guess that rules out zombies, Heather thought. “They possibly are being controlled by some outside source. But why would you think that?”
“It’s in the eyes,” Rick said, pointing towards his own, tapping on his goggles. “They light up, like a silver reflection against the sunlight. When I’m around, their eyes light up, and all hell breaks loose. When they don’t see me, it’s like I’m not even there…”
“Well then there’s a helpful pointer!” Heather exclaimed. “Try to go unnoticed. Check. If they see me, run, or use taser as a last resort. Double check.” Heather pulled out the taser Ric had handed to her and examined it. She fiddled with it until she felt confident with what she had in her hands, finding the most comfortable position. “I’m ready now.”
Without saying a word, Ric motioned for Heather to follow him. Ric pressed a button on his goggles and his lenses immediately turned clear. They walked up a short ramp that led to the side door of the home, noticing that the door was unlocked, but not open. As they entered, they found themselves in a kitchen, mostly untouched. It almost seemed abandoned, yet Heather noticed one opened jar of pickles. Someone is in here, she thought.
Ric turned left into a dining room, scanning for signs of movement, but came up empty. The room was mostly dark, except for the light from the front windows that seemed blinding against the dark interior of the dining room walls. They turned right into the living room, couches still covered in sheets from being prepped for a winter closing. There was a small porch in the corner closed off by a door, the screen door on the other side lightly batting open and closed. It was the only sound they could hear, with the exception of some creaks above their heads. Ric turned quickly to look at Heather, who nodded in return. Ric started for the stairs straight ahead of him, walking up the first round. Heather remained at the bottom of the steps. And that’s when everything happened in a blur.
A screech pierced the air, and Ric turned completely around and looked straight up as a person jumped down on top of him and dropped him to the ground. His taser flew out of his hand as the crazed person began punching and clawing at Ric. Heather couldn’t move for a second, still shocked at the presence of a new, and seemingly deadly, person, but she quickly flew up the stairs after that and stuck her taser in the person’s back and set it off. Whoever it was, was out.
Ric remained still, and silent, lying on the floor. He slowly pulled himself out from under the stunned person, and stood up. “This gives us about ten minutes. We need to act fast.” He continue on up the stairs, grabbing his taser. Heather stopped to look at the person lying face up on the floor. She didn’t recognize him, but studied his features anyway. Short, brown hair, late twenties, in fairly good shape. She reached down to open up an eyelid, and saw it. A silver eye looking back at her, but the pupil itself was slightly shaking. She still didn’t understand, but could feel the warning Ric had given her earlier about only having ten minutes. She stood back up, walked up the stairs and down the hallway, passing Ric who was searching inside an empty bedroom.
“Hey! Get back here!” Ric whispered harshly, but Heather wasn’t fazed. She continued left down the hallway, opened a door, and found it… a stairway leading back down. At the bottom she found herself right where they had started in the kitchen, and she started grabbing food items of use and throwing them in her bag. Ric was right behind her.
“What are you doing! I was still searching those rooms, they weren’t cleared yet!”
“I figured I’d get the food while you searched the rest of that room. We didn’t pass anymore open doors coming through that hallway, I figured I’d have a good chance getting back down here.” She picked up the pickle jar and took a smell.
“You don’t get to make that call! This is a new house to us, remember? You have to be safe. Safety first.” Ric had his hand on Heather’s shoulder to catch her attention from the pickles. She put them back down on the table. “I understand,” she said. “I’m sorry.” She walked over to the pantry to look for any cans of food they could take. “I looked at that man’s eyes and saw what you were talking about. I’ve never seen anything like it myself. Are you’re sure it’s not some kind of disease? I mean, how would one be controlled in that manner, it doesn’t make sense…”
Ric started to think. “You knew that hallway would lead down here. You know this place.”
Heather turned to look at Ric. “I do. I used to live here. A long time ago. It looks exactly how I left it all those years…” Ric had a look of concern on his face, more so than Heather was hoping now that he knew she was somewhat familiar with the island, but she continued talking without letting him cut her off. “But that guy’s eyes, his eyes…” she couldn’t think of how ones’ eyes could change to such a color. I should have payed closer attention in science. “But his hair, his skin, I mean everything looked like a normal human being, like you said. There’s just one thing that you missed.”
Heather ignored him and walked outside. She realized how uncomfortable she was being indoors as opposed to being outside. The snow had stopped and now the sun was out, and Heather could see the snow was even starting to melt. She walked down the ramp and back to the snowmobile, wondering if they’d be getting back on it, or if the snow would melt as fast as it had fallen from the sky.
Ric walked outside a minute later, this time with a bag of more food. He walked over to the sled and packed the food into the back rack, and turned the snowmobile on. “Tell me what I missed.”
“The eyes are more than just silver. When I pulled his lid up, I noticed something black around the edges of it. Like his eyes had been exposed to some powder or smoke. I thought that maybe this person had fallen in the dirt, but there wasn’t dirt on his face. Do you think that could mean something? Do you think that he was exposed to something that would cause him to change the way he has?”
Ric thought for a moment. It did seem possible to him. “That day of the crash, I bolted back up to the gazebo. No one knew that I had already converted it. It was a scientific experiment of mine that was approved by the city, but had to be kept under wraps. My shield was on. That UFO that had crashed here, it spread a crazy amount of smoke all over. I thought it was just exhaust and flames, but… it could have been more. Since my shield was up, I was never exposed to it, I stayed in that darn gazebo until it had all settled.”
“Then your theory is starting to become more plausible,” Heather replied. “Maybe that smoke was intentionally spread.” Heather looked at Ric as he removed his goggles for a moment. She noticed the hardness around his eyes, and the slight worry on his brow. She almost forgot what his eyes looked like since he had only removed them once, and now an indent had been pressed into his skin from the outer edges of his goggles. Then Heather had an epiphany.
“You’re not the only one here!”
“Um, I think am little lady,” Ric replied, rubbing his eyes one last time before putting his goggles back in place.
“Well, maybe… but you might not be the only one here. We might not be the only ones! You weren’t exposed to that smoke that day. I obviously wasn’t here, and I haven’t turned into a monster. What if someone that day had stayed clear of the smoke?”
“Then they would’ve been killed indoors by a monster that was. If you noticed they don’t go outside because of the light. Too sensitive. Everyone that turned ran for the darkness, so anyone indoors wouldn’t stand a chance.”
“BUT you don’t know that. It’s possible. Especially if one was to say, go into an enclosed basement, stay locked in their home. Heck, maybe even a greenhouse could have kept them safe. Don’t you think it’s possible?”
“I suppose it could be. That would be a good next plan for us, to figure out where one could have hid that fateful day.” Rick reached his leg over and sat down on the snowmobile. “But today, we’re out of time. We need to get to a safe place for the night. We also need to get outta here before all the snow melts away.”
Heather was excited. She figured out a lead, and Ric agreed on it. She hopped on behind him and held on. They backed out of the yard and started up Cadotte Ave, which had remained fairly intact compared to the destruction on Main Street. There were so many places on Mackinac Island where one could keep shelter from such an event, that she couldn’t keep all her ideas straight in her head. A night of sleep and time to plan were probably the next best plan of action for the two of them. She kept her eyes open as they began to pass the Grand Hotel, and Heather wondered if there were any pockets of safety hidden unbeknownst to them inside that hotel.
All of a sudden, the snowmobile halted to a stop. Heather pushed up against Ric, and he almost knocked his head into the windshield. “Hold yourself, now!” he grumbled. Ric reached his arm around his side and pulled something out of his back pocket. “I almost forgot. This might help.” He pulled out a bright orange knitted hat and held it out for Heather to take. “I told you, you need a hat.”
She put the hat on, and held on tight as they started back up the hill.
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