EDIT: The following is an excerpt from The Sole Survivors’ Club:
Crossing the access road, Monica looked north at the traffic moving past her. Turning her head to look south, she saw the line of traffic jammed on the bridge above the highway.
Her skin prickled when the voice in her head instructed, Walk toward the bridge.
Clenching her hands into fists, she began to walk south. Her gaze moved from one vehicle to the next while she looked for the cause of the accident.
But there was no screeching from any tires. Nothing on the bridge moved.
Monica was struck by the idea that the accident couldn’t happen until she was in the right place to see everything. All the accidents before were practice runs to prepare her for the inferno that was coming.
No, that she was coming to.
As if to confirm her thoughts, the cars on the bridge started to creep forward when she was two blocks away. There was still no vehicle traveling fast enough to cause a fatal collision, but by the time she was within a block of the bridge, Monica couldn’t tear her gaze away from it.
She wandered onto the grassy incline leading down to the highway, stopping in the middle less than a hundreds yards from the bridge. Nervous about getting too close, she scanned the vehicles on her side of the bridge again.
A yellow cab led the lineup, followed by a white BMW dirty enough to pass for grey. Behind it was a bright red Mazda Miata, and behind the little sports car, Monica’s gaze froze on the Chevy truck.
Painted white with a healthy coat of dirt on the outside, the half ton truck was a work vehicle suited to life in a motor yard. Monica’s eyes wandered to the tail bed, where a pair of dark blue metal barrels pinned back the crumpled remains of a car hood. When the truck moved, the hood wobbled.
Monica was so focused on the hood, she never saw the black Pontiac Fiero behind the truck until the car produced a loud roar, as if the driver revved the engine.
The growl rose to a high-pitched wail, and the car shot forward. The driver turned the steering wheel to avoid the truck, but the distance was too short. The wedge-shaped car lifted the bed on the passenger side, and the truck rocked precariously on two wheels, threatening to tip over.
But it didn’t. The barrels were revealed to have nylon webbing straps that held them in place.
With the truck leaned at an angle, Monica could see several hoods stacked together. Another pair of barrels on the other side had been used to keep the entire stack vertical.
Monica stared at the straps wound around the barrels, following them to each anchor point in the bed of the truck. But everything remained secure.
The driver of the Fiero crawled out through the passenger side window, and a few seconds later, the driver of the truck broke out his windshield to slip out onto the pavement. For the most part, the accident seemed to be over.
Monica waited, returning her attention to the barrels. She was about to check on the drivers again when she noticed a thin black line leaking from the edge of one barrel. The line was obscured by the concrete barrier on the side of the bridge, but Monica stared intently, looking for the line to reappear somewhere under the bridge. Finding nothing, she let her eyes readjust to assess the big picture. Both of the barrels on the driver’s side had begun to leak.
She realized they were full of old motor oil just before the lids of both barrels popped and a wall of black plummeted toward the highway.
A white cable service van came out from under the bridge, parting the liquid curtain in the middle. The oil splashed over the windshield, coating the front of the vehicle. It shuddered and then swerved into a spin. Partway through a second turn, the van flipped onto its side and made another quarter turn before sliding to a stop.
Oil poured out of the barrels over the side of the bridge, and within seconds a dozen cars hit the resulting slick. The vehicles slid into each other in a pileup just past the bridge. The smaller vehicles were able to stop before reaching the van, but a rig carrying a long haul trailer hit the oil and tore through most of the cars without slowing down.
The rig slammed the undercarriage of the van just as the driver was trying to crawl out the window. Her chest burst on the door, and blood ejected from her mouth. Her eyes widened until they threatened to bulge out of their sockets.
The van rolled, and the next time Monica saw the driver, she didn’t have a head.
A rumble similar to thunder filled the air, but the sound was too low in volume. Monica turned to look for the source and saw the crumpled hoods flexing themselves. She shook her head, telling herself what she saw wasn’t possible.
The driver of the truck pointed the movement out to someone else on the bridge. Monica almost felt relief to know she wasn’t seeing things, but the constant movement of the metal began to fray her nerves as effectively as the metal frayed the webbing straps.
Cars were still sliding through the oil and slamming into the overturned wrecks beyond the bridge. Some were able to avoid the maze of vehicles only to slam into the rig or the trailer, which blocked both the slow and middle lanes.
The pileup was building in size, but Monica saw none of it. Her attention stayed with the hoods. The pileup was bad, but something even worse was coming.
Her tattered nerves snapped, and she screamed. The webbing ripped at the same time, and a single black hood slid away from the stack.
The blast of wind was sudden, striking Monica in the back hard enough to stagger her. She set a foot out to balance herself, never tearing her gaze away from the falling hood.
The metal rolled over once before the wind caught it and lifted it. Gliding on the wind currents under the bridge before it dipped, the hood angled for a landing on the highway.
It slid through the windshield of a Mercury Sable. The dark green car veered across the lanes to slam into the rear wheel of a tow truck. The impact spun the truck and sent it bounding toward the median before it slammed into a bridge pylon.
The tipped Chevy work truck on the bridge rolled over onto the sidewalk, and the driver had no time to get away. He was crushed between the hood and concrete barrier wall, and his head and left arm dropped over the side of the bridge before they splattered on the road.
The remaining hoods dropped over the side, and the four barrels followed an instant later. The two barrels still full of used oil burst upon impact, coating the ground completely.
Monica heard someone shouting her name, but she didn’t look around. She walked down the hill toward the highway. Beyond the bridge, all three lanes of traffic were beginning to back up, and it seemed no one else would drive into the carnage.
Monica knew the worst part of the disaster was over, but she had the feeling that she wasn’t looking from the right place to see the end. She was meant to see something in the accident, perhaps one of the jinn Carl talked about.
But she didn’t find any jinn. She saw nothing but crumpled cars and broken bodies.
Her attention was drawn to an arm waving out of a window. Monica jogged around a cluster of cars to the yellow cab.
She checked the front seat and dropped her head to retch bile onto the pavement.
A nagging voice insisted Look again, and she reluctantly raised her eyes.
The driver looked like he’d tried scream before his mouth slammed into the top of the steering wheel. His cheeks were torn back to his shattered jaw, and his chin touched his throat while the top of his head was still upright.
Monica forced herself to look in the back seat at an old man dressed in what would have been a nice suit if it were not so torn or covered in blood stains.
Prying open the back door, Monica set a knee on the seat and leaned over the man while she tried to figure out what to do.
Part of her mind screamed to cover his wounds, but there were so many, and blood poured out of all of them at an alarming rate.
His watering eyes flicked toward Monica, as if he’d just noticed her for the first time. He took her hand and squeezed it. He was weak and fading too fast for help to arrive. The man tried to gasp for air, perhaps in preparation to say something.
Monica watched his eyes glaze, but she saw little else once tears began to swell in her eyes.
She felt a hand cover her cold shoulder, and the dreadful cold dissipated a second later. Wiping her eyes, she turned her head and found Bernice watching her with an anxious frown.
Monica got out of the car, looking across the oil slick to the massive pile up. She wanted to see something move. She was willing to settle for anything, even one of the hyenas. Instead, the only thing moving was a slow fire burning the interior of one car.
Bernice closed a hand around Monica’s forearm. “Monica, it isn’t safe here.”
“Of course it is. We’re in the aftermath now.”
“We should still move to the access road. Do you want to wait for the police?”
“Yes. If I run away, people might think I had something to do with the accident.” Monica glanced back at the old man. “Give me a second.”
She leaned into the car and raised her hands to close the man’s eyes. She thought they might need to be pushed down, but both lids slipped closed easily.
An explosion rocked the air. Looking up, Monica gasped. The explosion was the gas tank of the car that had been burning, and the wind gusted, sending the heat of the blast through the broken back windshield.
Monica dropped her head when a pickup next to the car exploded, and the blast from the gas tank igniting was strong enough to pick up several of the oil slicked hoods.
The wind surged, raising the hoods up off of the ground. Thinking of the driver of the green Sable, Monica got out of the car and waved a warning to Bernice. She hadn’t needed to, because Bernice was already running to get behind the tow truck.
Monica’s attention stayed with Bernice until the old woman was halfway to the truck, but her mind nagged at her to look at the hoods.
The thought was fully two seconds too slow for her to do anything. She turned her head before one of the hoods smacked into her.
Picked up off of her feet, she was carried by the hood until her weight sent the slick metal back to the ground. Monica thumped her head on the hood a second time during her landing, but she didn’t feel the impact quite as strongly.
The third explosion was brighter and much larger, but it sounded farther away from her.
Raising her head when she heard Bernice scream her name, Monica turned to stare at the old woman. She needed another second before she realized the impact had muffled her hearing.
Glancing back at the flaming vehicles, her mouth fell open when she saw a dark black figure dancing among the flames. With the fire creating a shimmering mirage in front of the figure, it was impossible to make out any details.
The Sole Survivors’ Club is available for $1.99 at Smashwords, Mobipocket, and the Amazon Kindle bookstore. If you are an e-book reviewer and would like a review copy, please leave a comment or send me email: zoe (at) zoewhitten (dot) com.