by Lisa McCourt Hollar
Reba stared out the window of the laundry mat and shivered. There was something ominous about the fog. It reminded her of a movie she’d watched before. It was thick fog—so heavy you couldn’t see two feet in front of you. It had crept in while she’d been collecting the change from the dryers. There were no windows in the narrow pathway behind the machines, so when she’d come back out into the main room she’d been surprised to see the mist outside. Her trailer, just across the street, had vanished, leaving her with the feeling of being cut off from the outside world. Her first thought was that the windows had fogged up—except that none of the dryers were running. She hadn’t opened the doors yet. R & B Laundry didn’t open for business until 10 AM. Late, compared to other cleaning services in the area, but being as she was the R in R & B Laundry, she could damn well set her own hours. Bob didn’t mind. He didn’t have anything to do with the business. Her mother thought she should have married someone more ambitious. Her mother could go fuck herself. More ambitious meant someone like Reba’s daddy and she’d rather burn in hell than be married to someone like her daddy. Bob may be a brain dead schnook, but he didn’t hit her.
She started to turn away from the window so she could fill the change machine, but something caught her eye. A woman was standing outside smoking a cigarette. Her eyes narrowed. She knew from the platinum blond that it could be none other than Barbara Reynolds. She had no smoking signs up all over the building, but that didn’t stop Barbara. The woman enjoyed antagonizing her. Reba headed towards the door to ask—no, demand—that Barbara put out the cigarette, but she vanished. One minute she was there, the next, poof, she was gone. Not really gone though, Reba scoffed at herself. It’s the fog—it’s swallowed her for a moment. Reba cringed at that thought. Okay, maybe swallowed is a poor word choice, she thought, but point is, she’s out there. She went to the window and peered out. Suddenly a hand slammed against the glass, startling Reba. Then a face appeared, smashed against the window. It was the woman.
Reba stepped backwards. What the hell. Was the woman crazy? Then she noticed the window where the woman’s face was pressed against it, was smeared with red.
“Oh my God …” Reba wasn’t sure if she should open the door and help the woman. What could have done this to her. An animal? There was a pit bull that lived a few houses down from the laundry mat, Reba had seen the owner walking it before, maybe it had gotten loose. She knew—or at least her friend was always telling her—that pit bulls were given a bum rap. “Unfairly targeted and labeled as vicious,” is what Diane would say whenever someone brought the subject up. Reba was sure that Diane believed that, she just wasn’t sure she did. Of course she wasn’t much of a dog person anyway. Or a people person. She knew she should open the doors and let the woman in before whatever had attacked her came back, but she couldn’t move. It was the fog. In the movie she’d seen, creatures had been lurking in the mist, ready to devour unsuspecting victims. Reba didn’t want to be an unsuspecting victim, so she froze—only for a moment—but that was enough. While she was trying to decide what to do, hands came out of the haze and pulled the Barbara back in. Reba heard a scream and then nothing more. Until the woman’s head landed against the window again. Just her head. Her body was gone.
A figure came out of the fog, a silhouette at first, then more substantial, and picked up the head. He turned it upside down and reached into the skull, scooping out bloody sludge and sucking it into his mouth. The man—creature—looked up and into Reba’s eyes. Her knees buckled, but somehow she managed to stay on her feet as she stared back into her husband’s eyes. They were vacant. Dead. She always found it a bit unsettling, even though he’d been dead—quite literally—for the better part of a year.
“Bob,” she scolded as she opened the laundry’s door, “how many times have I told you, you can’t eat the customers!”
Bob grunted back, his words unintelligible. Reba got the gist of it though. “I know I didn’t feed you today, but that doesn’t mean it was ok to leave the trailer.”
Bob made a couple more grunts and pointed to the signs all over the building.
“You’re right, she was smoking. She broke the rules, but Bob, what do you think people will do if they see you?” She paused to give him a chance to ponder that thought. “That’s right,” she said, when he grunted and tapped the side of his head, “they’ll shoot your noggin off.” Then softly, “I rather like your noggin. Now come on, help me get Barb into the trailer before the fog lifts.”
She worked out in her mind what she would do. A hand, that’s all she would need. Maybe an arm … yeah, an arm would be better. She’d throw it over the Pittie’s fence. She hoped Diane would take it well. It was her dog.