Dust gathered in a cloud behind the fast moving truck going a good ten kilometers over the designated speed limit. The window opened and a slightly tanned hand with black fingernail polish tossed the remains of her cigarette. She was only twenty four years old, turning twenty five in a few days, and she was enjoying the final moments of peace she had all by her lonesome. Not to say she wasn't an anti-social type of person, just one that appreciated time away from the place where she grew up in and the memories that came with it. The sound of a rising pop star's latest song was playing on the radio as she closed the window. Scowling, Cristal LaRoque grabbed onto the frequency knob and began searching for something classier than something by a hormonally challenged teenager who was smothered by girls under the age of thirteen.
"Fuck's sake," she said. "Can't go though this channel without some pop diva's song being played more than once. Why can't they play something decent for a change like they use to do?" Cristal smiled as the radio began to play a favourite of hers by Journey. She hummed the beginning of the song, her foot not on the gas pedal tapping in rhythm until she began singing the lyrics. "Just a small town girl, livin' in a lonely world! She took the midnight train going a-ny-wheeere!" As she sang, memories began to resurface from the back of her mind.
It was the first time she had done anything that was against her parents wishes. Her fraternal twin brother, Chris, had always been the good son who did stupid things and he was usually the one her parents saw as the trouble maker. Before Chris was thirteen he sported a tattoo of a girl in a very suggestive position wearing only a bikini on his leg, earning him a spanking from their mother and a laugh from their dad. Cristal had laughed too and was inspired by her brother's stupidity and willingness to pay for his crimes.
So she dyed several streaks in her light brown hair purple, a decision her mother had gotten extremely upset about. As usual, Chris and her father had stayed out of the argument. She had pissed her mother off even more when she started going out past her curfew, having to be taken home to her parents by a friend in the police force after celebrating her third piercing. Her mom was frustrated that she had saved up money to give herself a nose and eyebrow ring. She was absolutely furious when she bought another piercing for her nose, telling her that she was ruining her beautiful face. The song faded away as Cristal turned the radio off and let the memory of her mother rekindle in her mind. Despite all the shit her mother gave her, she was still her greatest hero and unconditional source of motherly advice and love.
When the cancer hit, the entire family was shocked, Chris and Cristal especially. Her dad had always asked them what they would do if their mother passed away, but they had never taken into account the realistic possibility. After all, they were two rebellious seventeen year old yearning for freedom from mom and dad. No kid their age would have thought of something so negative. Cristal rubbed her eye with her hand before turning her attention back to the road. "Not crying," she told herself. "Mom didn't want me to cry."
Her mother passed away at the end of that year, cutting the LaRoque family down to three. Chris dealt with the grief in his own way - by enlisting for Military service after witnessing the destruction at the hand of the terrorist in '01. Her father did his best to be an ideal figure to her in place of her mother and brother, but his infinite patience and relaxed attitude to life seemed to have vanished, replaced with some sort of yearning for his daughter to go to university and study as something bigger than a lumberjack, like a lawyer or business woman.
From across a forest she could see her hometown of Whispering Meadows, still as homely looking as it had been so many years ago. Not that she never visited, but she rarely came up for any reason bigger than her brother's return and discharge or the birth of their old friend, Mason's, fourth child in the winter of 2005. The snow that seemed to be gone on the road was still present in the valley below, the trees covered in a thick white blanket.
As she descended into the valley and through the forest, Cristal felt herself grow colder, as if her heater had gone busted and the frost outside was getting in somehow. She checked at her dashboard and slapped her forehead, turning the heater from low to high. She sighed at the warm air that enveloped her and turned the radio back on again. Driving through this place had always scared her a little bit, even more so on her first and last hunting trip with her father and brother. Chris had teased her that "these woods were built on an ancient Native war zone you know, sis? Sometimes, we can see the spirits of these Indians come back from the dead in the form of rotting corpses!" She jabbed at her brother's ribs when he told her the story, getting a laugh from her father that she hadn't heard in a long time.
"No such things as ghosts kid," Cristal said to herself, repeating what her father told her.
As Cristal drove out of the forest clearing, a pair of figures emerged from the under bush, their combat uniforms wrinkled and torn by the branches while their faces were stained with mud and sweat. One held the other around his shoulders, a distressed look on his face. The other clutched at a bloody cloth around a stump, a stump that was where his left hand should have been. They ducked at the passing vehicle before resuming their trek.
"Take it easy looie, those fuckers are too cold to follow us. Besides, they only bite your left hand and look, it's not even there anymore."
"Remind me to thank you for that quick thinking you bastard."