This story is by Danielle Nolan and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
I look ahead at the queue of stationary cars.
I should already be at the radio station. Thanks to the flat tyre on my car I was commuting by bicycle. Not in the mood to wait around, I turn left.
You have got to be kidding!
Stationary cars were staggered across the road like chess pieces.
I peer through a window. The car is abandoned. I ride ahead. Each one is the same; empty with their radios left on.
“It’s Monday Madness here on Radio 42B”.
This was spooky. Where was everybody?
I should alert the police.
I pull over and search my handbag with trembling hands. Then I remember my phone is still charging at home.
Suddenly, I feel a crippling chill. I wrinkle my nose as I smell potent gasoline. I shiver as the sun disappears.
The cloud of smog glares at me with glowing eyes. I watch the wraith take shape and stretch out its long, oozing fingers.
My neighbour’s motorbike zooms past. The wraith pursues him.
“Leon, watch out!”
The monster swoops. With one touch, the bike freezes. Leon vanishes and the motorbike dies. Strangely, it doesn’t fall over. The wraith flies away. Then the radio switches on.
“Welcome to 42B: the place to be!”.
“You’ve convinced me, Emily”.
I would have given anything to be safe and working right now. Sure, Emily’s temper had gotten worse after becoming the boss but facing a lecture about being late was preferable to disappearing.
I resume pedalling and don’t stop, even when the chill return. I don’t dare look upwards as the silhouette draws nearer. The wraith touches my shoulders and then….nothing.
The wraith glares at me, confused. I get it, even if the wraith doesn’t. Unlike Leon’s motorcycle there’s no exhaust pipe. I laugh. I was too eco-friendly for its palate.
I watch it return to the sky and realise with horror that the city is filled with wraiths. They dive, stopping traffic and stealing motorists in their search for energy. I shiver as another swooping assassin draws closer.
My younger brother, Bailey was suddenly next to me on his moped, grinning. The unsuspecting wraith had copped the full force of his scream.
Clutching its cheek, the wraith gasps, flickers, and then disappears.
“What did you just do?”
Bailey roars with laughter.
“I was helping. Are you awake now?”.
I stare at him. Bailey is acting like his regular, annoying self. It was freaking me out.
“Didn’t you see that wraith? Bailey, stop playing around”.
“What wraith? Must you always be so weird? Later, Zoe”.
Before I could process that I was alone in this madness, he speeds away.
These monsters were feeding off exhaust fumes. None of the motorists were safe, not even my fearless brother.
Pedalling at top speed wasn’t enough. I helplessly witness the pursuit and the lethal swoop. The moped cuts out and Bailey vanishes. Like Leon’s bike, it also remains upright.
Your music, your way. Here’s your number one song, 42B!
I throw my bike and run to his side. Devastated, I wrap my hands around where Bailey should have been. My hands touch flesh.
I move my hands upwards. My frozen tears thaw as I feel Bailey’s chest. His heart is pounding.
“Zoe? I can’t see or move. I can barely breathe. I’m scared. Help me, please!”
I barely hear Bailey over the deafening music.
Oh God. The radios. The wraiths are drowning out the motorists. They could be screaming and still nobody would hear them!
I throw myself around my brother. I close my eyes and pretend that nothing was wrong.
“Breathe, Bailey. Don’t be scared. I’m not going anywhere. That’s it, in and out.”.
At first Bailey was trembling. Though I couldn’t bring him back, at least now I could feel his steady breathing upon my shoulder.
Suddenly, a wraith shrieks. I open my eyes and see it vanish.
“Zoe? Why are you hugging me in public? Somebody might see”.
I gasp and hug Bailey tighter. He had returned to me, flesh and blood.
Bailey stopped the first wraith with his scream. We stopped the second one with our breath.
Suddenly it makes sense. The wraiths’ weakness was exhalation!
“Bailey, give me your phone”.
He glares at me.
“What do you mean, why?”, I ask. Then I see his blank expression.
He doesn’t remember!
At last Bailey obliges. I grab the mobile and dial.
“Thank you for calling Radio 42B. This is Dave speaking”.
“Dave, patch me through to the broadcast”.
Our call screener laughs.
“Is that you, Zoe? Are you trying to get me fired?”
I add incentive.
“I’ll take all responsibility plus I’ll talk you up to Emily”.
I grin as Dave hesitates. He has the biggest crush on my co-host. Finally Dave remembers how to speak.
“Patching you through”.
“Good morning 49B”.
My voice reverberates out of Bailey’s speakers.
“Don’t let the Monday blues win. If you are struggling, lost, frightened or alone, Zoe’s got you covered. Let’s get through this together. Take a deep breath in. Hold it. Exhale and repeat. Do it with me, everyone. I promise that everything is going to be okay”.
The solution was as simple as breathing. I gaze at the nearest car and smile as I see a family gradually reappear. The driver frowns, confused as to why the car has stopped. He turns the key and resumes his journey as if nothing strange had happened.
As the motorists remembered how to breathe, the atmosphere was filled with life and fresh air. The wraiths choked upon this purity and fell down upon us like rain. As the motorists came back to life, the wraiths flicker out of existence.
Bailey shakes my shoulders.
“Are you okay, Zoe? You look like you have seen a ghost”.
Only a whole army of them, buddy.
I smile weakly.
“I’m fine, Bailey. It’s just one of those Mondays”.