“I’m telling you Felicity, you took the wrong turn two hours back! We should’ve reached the next intersection already!” Leo sighed with exasperation as he stared intently at the maps sprawled across his lap. Felicity hated being told she was wrong. She surged onwards at her consistent speed of 100 mph. One would think that a group of three geniuses would be able to navigate better.
We had only been traveling for five hours, but were already irritated with each other. This is probably because we were soaked in sweat, our skin was sticking to the leather seats, and we were stuck in the heavy mid-afternoon sun while the broken air conditioner did nothing but hum in the background. All that we could see was the long, winding road ahead of us with the rocky and barren soil as far and wide as the eye could see. There wasn’t a soul in sight. We were in the middle of nowhere. No Wi-Fi and completely deserted.
The car came to an abrupt stop. I jerked awake to the car slamming into some sort of solid object and Leo’s string of Scottish curse words. Felicity and Leo threw open their doors and ran to the front of the car. I followed them out, dazed and confused. And there, lying on the ground, was something that I could only describe as impossible. It looked like a mermaid, but instead of being half fish and half human, it was half snake-- green and scaly, but with a face that might have been once beautiful. It was horrendous sight.
Two minutes of stunned silence went by with our mouths hanging open in disbelief. “It came out of nowhere!” Felicity face was suddenly scrunched up, full of worry. Typical Felicity.
“Felicity, do you see what this is?” Leo gaped at the thing on the ground. “I think it’s a good thing you hit it!”
“What in the name of Zeus is this thing?” I was wide awake now. In fact, I don’t think I was ever going to sleep again.
Felicity moved forward as Leo put his arm out to stop her. “We have to see if it’s still alive!” she exclaimed. Leave it to Felicity to want to check the pulse of a monster. She wasn’t scared. She was never scared. Whenever she saw someone that needed help, she was there. No questions asked and no fear in her heart.
Felicity slowly inched forward and put her index and middle finger on the thing’s neck. She nodded and backed up. “Whatever this creature is, it has a pulse. It’s alive.” She looked relieved.
“Yes, but what do we do? It’s in our way. We can’t drive past it without crushing it.” I wanted to get away from this thing as quickly as possible.
“We can’t just leave it here. We need to figure out what to do with it. We hit it. It’s our responsibility. If we put it in the trunk of the car it can still breathe and this way we won’t have to look at it.” Leo reasoned. I put up a fight, but in the end reluctantly agreed.
We moved all the suitcases out of the trunk into the backseat of the Impala to make room for the enormous body. It took the three of us to move the creature into the trunk due to its substantial weight. We decided on driving back to the gas station from 4 hours ago to recoup and figure out our next move. There was absolute silence on the way back. No bickering. Nothing. None of us seemed to want to talk about the elephant in the room... or actually, the trunk.
It was nearing the evening by the time we reached the gas station. Leo and I went inside to get food for the road while Felicity filled the gas tank. Police sirens sounded in the distance as we gathered around the Impala.
“I’d say we should go to a hospital to get help, but they’re not going to know what to do and it just won’t be safe.” Felicity looked lost in thought.
“Maybe we should check up on this thing ourselves first. Or see if it can talk.” Leo went around to open the trunk. Felicity and I flanked him, bracing ourselves for the worst. This creature could turn out to be murderous. Mumbling a count of 3 under his breath, Leo flung open the trunk and took a large step backwards.
“What the....” I leaned in closer to get a better look. There was nothing there.
Three police cruisers entered the scene, lights flashing and sirens blaring. Six police officers ran into the station, guns raised. It didn’t take more than a glance at the other two to realize we were all thinking the same thing; we snuck around to the back of the gas station and peered through the windows, and what a sight to behold. There on the ground, in the secluded area in the back of the gas station, laid a mutilated child with its eyeballs missing from the sockets. The body looked torn apart with blood everywhere. I just about fainted while Leo let out a silent scream. Things were getting weird much too fast to just pass off as a coincidence.
When we finally made our way back to the car, I pulled out my iPad. There was only one way we would be able to see for sure where our creature went-- I hacked into the security cameras at the gas station.
“Hey guys, you might want to see this.” I called out. Because on the security tape was a sight they surely didn’t want to miss.
There, on the screen, was the creature. What we saw was unbelievable- the grotesque hybrid was chomping on the child’s body, squirting blood and guts everywhere, and then it slithered away. I heard Felicity and Leo gasp next to me. I deleted the security footage for the entire area for the hour we’d been here. We would be in so much trouble if anybody else saw this video and then traced the creature back to escaping from our car.
“Get into the security cameras on the road. Then maybe we can see what direction it went in.” Leo suggested.
“I can do one better. We can figure out where this thing is actually going.” I had pulled up the string of security cameras from the roadside. I traced the snake hybrid as it slithered past the cameras all the way to what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse. I hacked into the cameras at the abandoned warehouse to get a look at the thing. I couldn’t seem to find the creature anywhere as I aggressively clicked through the tapes. “Nothing. I have no idea what it’s doing in there.” I sighed.
“What even is this thing? Is it a lab experiment gone wrong? Or worse... gone right?” Leo turned to Felicity, wondering if science had even come that far.
I did a quick search for half snake and half human experiments, but there weren’t any results that matched our creature. So, I Googled ‘snake-human hybrid mythologies’. “Guys, it’s a Lamia.” I proclaimed, holding out the iPad.
“A what?” Felicity took it, getting a closer look. “This is it. This is what our snake-human looks like.” She tilted the screen towards Leo. “It says here that they come from Greek mythology, but rarely seen out of Greece. It’s a daemon, but with the archaic spelling of demon. But get this- these folklore monsters are similar to vampire and succubi.” She stayed silent for several seconds, reading on. “It tells us how to kill it. Guys, these Lamia things eat children.” She looked up from the screen, her face pale and full of worry. “All we need is rosemary and salt to throw on it and then we can set it on fire.” She read aloud. “That’s good. There’s a 24-hour mini mart just past there. We can get what we need and head to the warehouse.”
“Whoa, whoa. What do you mean head to the warehouse? Do you actually think we’re going after this thing?” I practically yelled at her. “I know Lamia eat children, but I’m assuming it’s not going to have a problem with eating us if we try to kill it.”
“What are we supposed to do? Let it hunt around the town devouring whatever child it wants? You erased all evidence of the Lamia from the gas station and the road-side cameras. Now, nobody will even believe us if we tried to tell them that there’s a child eating monster slithering around,” Felicity argued back.
“Felicity, how are one IT girl, one biochemist, and one engineer supposed to fix this? We aren’t mythologists or hunters! This isn’t our job.” I was terrified and my voice was coming out high and squeaky. Felicity was being annoyingly unreasonable.
“If we don’t, who will? The police will never believe us without those tapes. Nobody will believe us. We have to try to do this before the Lamia decides to move to a different location. There isn’t much time.” Felicity had a look of determination. That was always what was so great about her. She saves lives. She’s a hero. It was her JOB. Me? I hid behind a computer cracking codes, securing networks, hacking databases. I wasn’t a hero. I would never be.
“I’m not going to let people die because of something we can stop,” she went on. “Every death this thing causes will be our fault because we could’ve tried to stop it but didn’t. What do you even have to lose?” Felicity wasn’t going to change her mind. Nothing I could say would change her mind.
“My life, Felicity. That’s what I have to lose. And I’m not risking my life for something that’s not our responsibility to stop.” I wasn’t going to change my mind either.
We both looked over to Leo, who had been uncharacteristically quiet for the past several minutes. Leo looked from me to Felicity, his eyes solemn.
“What’s it going to be? Do I have to do this by myself?” Felicity asked him.
“Or you could stay out of trouble and stay alive.” I argued.
“If we don’t do this, nobody else will. Other people are going to die. We brought this thing with us into town, it is our responsibility to stop it.” Leo said. And with that, his mind was made up.
“You can fight with us or don’t even bother coming back to us. I don’t want to be friends with a coward,” Felicity said to me, anger rising.
“Fine.” And that was that. We split and went our separate ways.
I walked across the street and got a motel for the night. Those two didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. What if they got killed? Where will their efforts have gone then? We all had bright futures to look forward to being among the top players of our generation in our respective fields. But if they wanted to go out and play the hero, then that was their life they could gamble away.
Sleep was just about impossible for me. No matter what I did, I just could not keep my mind off what sort of trouble Felicity and Leo might be in right now. Even though I wanted nothing to do with putting myself in danger to kill something that had a 99% chance of killing me first, I couldn’t stand the thought of my best friends alone out in the middle of nowhere with a human eating monster. Not being able to stand the suspense, I got out my iPad and hacked back into the security cameras in the warehouse. It took a bit of searching, but I finally found Felicity and Leo, each holding a torch, a silver knife, and a bag which I could only imagine was the rosemary and salt mixture. They looked fearless, standing there side by side, trying to save the day. I clicked through the screens to try and find the Lamia again. I half expected it to have moved on from the warehouse, but something caught my attention in the corner of one of the screens. Slinking behind a row of shelves was the hideous snake-human creature. It was apparent that Felicity and Leo had no idea it was there even though it was only a few meters away from them. They were approaching the Lamia fast and I wanted to call out to them. “TURN AROUND.” But all I could do was wait and watch. The Lamia glided in front of them as they shrieked. It grabbed Felicity and threw her across the room. Leo charged at it, his knife stretched out in front of him. I suddenly felt sick. I couldn’t watch. I slammed the case of the iPad shut and ran out the room, iPad and jacket in hand. I hotwired an SUV that was parked in the motel lot (with the full intention of returning it of course), and went on my way at breakneck speed. Felicity and Leo have always been my best friends. My family. And family sticks it out for each other no matter what.
Under the dim streetlight just up ahead, I could see Felicity and Leo cowering behind a bush in the front of the warehouse. The Lamia slithered playfully towards them, merely having fun with its food before it feasted. It seemed to know they had nowhere to run and nothing to defend themselves with. I gunned the SUV at 85... 95... 105 mph and crashed head on into the Lamia in a loud boom, sending it flying backwards. I threw open the car door. “Fight or don’t come back, right?”
“You, Layla, have impeccable timing.” Leo laughed, pulling himself and Felicity into the car.
“What’s the plan now?” I asked, grinning.
“Well, we still have the rosemary and salt, but we lost our silver blades and torches so we have nothing to defend ourselves with or anything to end the Lamia with,” Leo responded. He looked in terrible condition with scratches across his face and his hands bleeding. Felicity looked no better.
“It’s okay I brought matches.” I handed him the little box that I had thankfully brought along. “We still have to figure out how we’re going to take this thing down becau-”
Suddenly, the Lamia hissed with its disgusting snake tongue hanging out of its mouth. We screamed. It was awake, angry, and coming right for us.
“What do you think?! Hit it again?” I coughed out.
“No! Drive, drive, drive!” Felicity yelled.
I reversed and shot out of here. Felicity instructed me on how to circle to the back of the warehouse. We would need a plan of attack before we attacked.
We tip-toed into the dimly lit building each carrying a rosemary and salt mixture. I had my iPad to keep tabs on the Lamia. It was currently at the opposite end of the warehouse and heading in our direction.
“Guys.” I whispered. They looked to me and I nodded. It was time. We were a few meters away from the Lamia now and would have to put our plan into action. I glanced down at the iPad but to my dismay, the Lamia seemed to have vanished. I whipped my head around in a fury trying to catch a glimpse of the creature, but had no such luck. The screens of the surveillance on my iPad went static all at once. The Lamia must’ve realized what we were doing and disconnected the cameras. Unfortunately, our plan was reliant on the surveillance footage and we didn’t have time to create a plan B.
We backed up into a circle, standing shoulder to shoulder while keeping our eyes peeled for any signs of movement. We wouldn’t have even realized what had happened if it wasn’t for Leo’s groan and then the thud of his body hitting the floor. He hauled himself up, pulling a knife out of his arm. The Lamia was looming in front of us with a smirk on its face. We pulled Leo up and ran for the exit. We made it past the door when the Lamia shot in front of us and blocked our path to the car. Leo, knife still in hand, hurled himself at the Lamia and managed to lodge the knife into her stomach. She screeched so intensely that I thought my eardrums were going to bleed. It was in this split second that Felicity got close enough to dump her bag of rosemary and salt onto the Lamia and Leo tossed me the matches. In one swift motion, I lit the match and flung it at the Lamia. The flame engulfed her whole body and her screams eventually died out. We watched the Lamia burn. The flames danced around her in a series of bright orange and yellow streaks while the crinkle of fire surrounded us in the pitch black of the silent night. It was breathtaking.
I got out of the car and leaned against the Impala, breathing in the fresh woodsy air and took in the stunning sunrise with its streaks of orange and pink lighting the sky.
“What made you change your mind?” Leo questioned, joining me and taking in the surroundings.
“You two idiots risking your lives to save the people in this stupid town are the only things I had to lose. You guys are worth the gamble. And I guess there are worse ways to die than saving people, right?”
“Right.” Felicity threw us each a can of beer, holding it up in celebration. We took a huge, long gulp.
It felt as if it was just us left in the world. Me, Leo, Felicity, and the ‘97 Chevy Impala. This journey started with the four of us and I suppose it’s going to end that way. It was us versus the universe, because now we know the secret of what creatures are hidden in its depths. It felt unreal thinking that this little town in Arkansas would wake up in the morning and go on with their daily routines, ignorant of the immediate danger they were in. The world just seemed larger now and all the more impossible. Like a challenge. If there was nobody to take up that challenge, what group, other than the three drifting geniuses, would be better suited to uncover what else lay behind the shadows of the earth?