The side door of the school was, no surprise, locked tight. I banged on it a couple times, glancing frantically behind me, Nancy squirming and fussing at my side. When I turned back to the small window set into the door, I thought I saw a flash of movement, a janitor perhaps, in a striped shirt, and then the halls were still again, devoid of any help.
I dragged Nancy further around the building, looking for another door, a window left a hair open, anything I could work with. It was shut up tight, either from plain ol’ good security, or to prevent any potential pranksters from doing anything too fun. I’d seen plenty of TV shows and movies where breaking into schools seemed quite easy, but in practice, it was turning out to be impossible. If I’d had to, I suppose I could have found a rock, or chunk of asphalt, but I was hoping not to break in my police record with a breaking and entering charge.
Luckily for us, the man with the scar was quite slow, apparently, as, even with all my scrambling and searching, he still hadn’t caught up. In fact, I didn’t see any sign of him at all. For a split second, I thought about sticking my head back around the corner of the schoolhouse, but that seemed far too convenient a way to get it chopped off.
I took us the rest of the way around the building instead, keeping up a fairly quick pace. I left Nancy behind, peeked out into the parking lot. There was no sign of him, so I retrieved my charge and dashed across. Unfortunately, Nancy missed a step, likely tripping over her own Mary Janes and fell. For a real toddler, it wouldn’t have mattered as much, but, no matter how she was acting, or what - if anything - she may be thinking and feeling, she was a teenager. Her fall dragged me down as well, and for a few moments, we lay in a tangled pile. Nancy’s face crumpled, so I shoved my hand over her mouth to keep her quiet.
Slowly, I stood back up, scanning for any other activity. It was still clear; I helped her up and gave her a hug before holding a finger up to my lips in the hopes that she’d be able to understand that at least. She nodded, mimicking the motion for a moment, then began giggling.
Rolling my eyes, I grabbed her hand and went through the lot, as quickly as she could manage. As things still appeared safe enough, I left her outside the car long enough to open the trunk, throwing aside frisbees and tire irons and old grocery bags to get the blanket folded up at the bottom. I spread it out on her seat, helped her up on top of it, being sure her wet bottom was squarely set on the blanket, then buckled her in.
As we turned off that street, I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding, as I nervously turned the key and made my way away from the school. I let myself believe that everything was fine, for a second or two, until I looked over at Nancy, a reminder that thing were certainly not back to normal, and I wasn’t sure exactly how to change that.
And speaking of things I didn’t know how to change, Nancy giggled innocently in the seat beside me, not seeming bothered by the wet diaper between her legs. I’d spent a rather minimal amount of time changing babies’ diapers - I couldn’t say that I had any experience with those of my best friend. I assumed it was similar, though on a larger scale, though, of course, it would seem to require another diaper that would fit her. Should I stop on the way and buy her some? Were they a one size fits all kind of thing?
Or should I trust that, once I had her home and got the costume off, the curse would be broken? I could have tested it there, I suppose, but I doubted that, if it did work, she’d thank me for stripping her in the car in the middle of Springwood Street. Then again, thinking back, it hadn’t seemed to take effect until she had the whole thing on. When we got to a stop sign, I reached over, tugged at the bow she’d tied in the ribbon around her left ponytail. She turned her head at the feeling of my hand.
“Nancy?” I asked hopefully. She smiled over at me, vacantly, before her attention was grabbed by her own hand, covered in chocolate. “Let’s put that away for now,” I suggested, hearing another car pull up behind us, and hoping they wouldn’t mind a tiny delay, reaching behind me and pushing the bag on the back seat further away from her hands. I nearly pulled over so that I could get the hand wipes from the glove box - fortunately, she took care of that by herself, sticking a couple fingers into her mouth. Probably not too sanitary, but I figured it would be all right.
As I straightened back up, I caught a glimpse of the car waiting so patiently behind us. It was a truck, actually, brown, big and old, a touch banged up, with patches of different colored metal, and a large, heavy bumper that was surely not the original. I stared upward, above all of that, to the windshield, and who, or what, sat behind it.
I sat back up quickly, turning my head to the road in front of us and hitting the gas, for a split second until I heard the horn of the car whizzing by in front of us. As soon as it was past, however, my foot was back on the pedal. I had to slow somewhat while I passed another car, then swerved back into the right lane. But there was the man, still, in the rear view mirror, a lighter in his hand now, as he idly flipped it on and off, for no apparent reason, as I didn’t see any cigarettes or anything.
“It’s just a coincidence,” I told myself, out loud. “He just happens to be going the same way…” So I decided to go another way, pulling over to the left lane, then turning onto the back road I was fairly sure came out somewhere near home. There were a few houses there, near the end, before they started to give way to the woods. I thought I’d heard once that there used to be an old girls’ school somewhere back there, long ago, though I couldn’t say I’d ever went looking for it.
“Shit,” I spat at the sight of the truck in the mirror, a little half-heartedly. Like I’d really thought it’d be that easy. As I hit the gas, tugging sharply on the wheel when the road took a sudden turn, I began to regret my choice. I could have tried to lose myself in traffic on the freeway. On that road, my best bet would be to outrun him, and hope that, in the few times I’d been in the car while my parents drove, I’d learned more about the road than he knew.
Nancy slipped across the seat, bumping into my arm as I made the next curve. She looked quite confused, on the verge of tears. That was just what I needed… A moment later, as the next turn threw her into the door, the floodgates opened. I rolled my eyes, not daring to take a hand off the wheel long enough to try to comfort her. “Why didn’t your costume come with a pacifier?” I grumbled.
The truck was keeping pace easily, so, despite knowing what was ahead, I felt my foot push further down. “Hold on!” I warned Nancy, but of course that meant nothing to her. I flung out an arm, as the road suddenly dipped, keeping her from banging her head on the dashboard, then frantically untangled it from her, brought it back to the wheel to bring the car around the curve at the hill’s foot, so that I didn’t crash into the tree there. I made it, though the rear tires nearly slid into it anyway, just to prove me wrong. Then it was back up another hill, and, for a short time, straight.
My heart felt as if it were going to beat out of my chest. I allowed myself a brief moment to close my eyes, clearing my mind. We were pretty deep in the forest by then, no houses visible for a while, but a couple driveways had popped up here and there. I opened my eyes, a feeling of relief washing over me to find that I was alone on the road. One of those driveways must have belonged to him, I reasoned. Nothing to worry about - just getting myself worked up over someone who happened to share a scar with the person who’d turned my best friend into a toddler. A coincidence, nothing more.
Then those headlights came up that hill, blazing towards the car. I went faster again, but the truck kept gaining, getting closer and closer, filling the car with light, nearly blinding me. “Damn it, damn it, damn it!” I squinted, leaning forward. Where the hell were we now? I might be able to navigate the road all right, but not blind.
There was a jolt, and a moment later, a mailbox came tumbling across the hood, slamming into the windshield and then over the top of my car. I gasped, swerving back onto the road, then back again after over-compensating. I had enough time to hope the mailbox would at least slow him down before we was right back on my tailgate. In the passenger’s seat, Nancy was wailing, her gasping breaths sounding just as scared as I felt. I wished I could comfort her - even grown up, she hated roller coasters, so I had a feeling her reaction wasn’t far off from what she’d have been like if I had managed to fix her, just more extreme - but I had my hands full keeping us on the road.
In fact, as I regretted being unable to calm Nancy, the street seemed suddenly, a few feet in front of the car, to vanish, ending in a group of trees. There was that sharp turn, I mused. Now, which way did it go? I didn’t have long to decide; I went with my gut, said a quick prayer that went something like, ‘Don’t let me get us both killed like this,’ and turned left.
I had chosen poorly. The car jolted a bit as it went off the road, and then again, much stronger, as the front tires slammed into the ditch. I fell forward, throwing my arms in front of my face to avoid slamming it straight into the steering wheel. The truck zoomed past behind us as a scream that I was pretty sure was mine echoed through the car, followed by panting that I knew for sure came from my lungs.
I glanced over at Nancy, seeing something wet, shining on her forehead. I reached over to her still shoulder, the sound of the truck’s engine growing fainter and fainter. I must have imagined it all after all, and now…
And then the sound stopped for a moment before starting again. It took a second for me to realize it was getting closer. I threw the car into reverse, hit the gas, but the tires just spun uselessly, as the man with the scar got closer and closer.