No Racing By Horse-Drawn Vehicles
rating: +14+x

They smoked in the car on the way down.

Kit put his feet up on the dash; Dawn playfully batted them off.

The radio crackled at them, coming through clear as they tore past a town.

“And dance, and drink, and screw-“

Dawn clicked the radio off, face flushing red, but Kit laughed out-loud and flicked ash out of the window.

They chattered mindlessly. Dawn took them off the motorway and they ordered way too much fast food before skinning up. They hot-boxed the little car and joked about being pulled over, despite the early hour, with the windows blocked with so much excess smoke that the hypothetical cop would get a contact high.

“We could, y’know. Screw. Because there’s nothing else to do.” Kit suggested, a broad grin on his face as he tunelessly sang the last line.

Dawn frowned and took the car into the next gear with an unnecessary hardness that jolted the whole car and made it rattle.

“It’s not right,” her pitch took on a tone mocking those who had said it to them. Their parents, their teachers, their friends. It did little to downplay the tearful tune in her own voice.

“I don’t care,” Kit murmured in response, getting close to her ear. Dawn turned and scowled, pushing him away with one hand, the other on the steering wheel.

“I do care! It’s not right, not yet!”

“Dawn…” He sighed softly but moved back. “One day, I’ll convince you you’re more than this. More than your body.”

Dawn shook her head and fell into silence, tears in her eyes, her hands shaking slightly as she gripped the wheel tight enough that her knuckles went white.

They stayed silent for what felt like forever. At first, Kit was worried he had ruined his first road trip as an adult – all of 17 years old, thinking he knew the world because he had a friend that drove and a destination in mind. But when the radio crackled again and crooned some old love song at the two, they were both soon laughing, and the tension was broken.

Kit wolfed his way through some combination of deep fried chicken, bacon and cheese, regretting it almost instantly. He rolled another cigarette, then rolled down the window as they drove past a sign that declared

No Racing
By Horse Drawn Vehicles

Kit hollered with laughter and then kept a keen eye out, pointing out to Dawn that maybe some vehicles were horse-drawn, and that the horses were invisible. Dawn responded with that there was no sign explicitly banning non-horse-driven vehicles from racing. She smirked and gunned the engine at an unsuspecting lorry driver, who glowered down at them as the two pulled their most innocent looks.

They soon turned off the motorway again to take a slightly more scenic route. They had time – check in wasn’t until two, and it was only near six am.

But still, Kit couldn’t wait to sit on the beach and breathe in the salty air – to look upon the big wreck of the West Pier, to stroll down the pier and through the noisy arcade.

Dawn was thinking of her last trip down here, as a family, shoved into a car that was strictly No Smoking, with the radio tuned to something stuffy, placed next to her sisters in the back when, as the oldest, she normally sat in the front.

“If you want to be a proper lady,” her father had said, sternly, “You’ll sit with the other girls.”

She had been too scared to argue. First time going down to the seaside in a dress, legs bare and carefully waxed, body neat and compact as it could be at that time. She felt lucky to be allowed to do this – arguing could cause her to be left behind.

Absently, she had taken the same route as her parents took, in the old car smelling of pot and fast food, her thoughts two years behind and using instinct. Eventually, she came across a sign that gave her pause – and she pulled the car aside on the quiet junction. Left, or right?

She looked at the small brown sign that pointed to the right, which said ’12th Century Church’. Kit had been dozing, but woke up at the sudden stop, a burnt-out cigarette still poised in his hand. He took a couple of seconds to get his bearings, but the sign was familiar - Kit knew Dawn and her family had always stopped here on the way down, to pay homage to some long-dead family member.

‘Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop,’ Kit chanted in his head, but said nothing until Dawn frowned, crossed herself absently, and jerked the car back into gear, taking a hard left.

Kit laughed, slung a companionable arm around her.

“That’s my girl!”

He liked the way ‘my girl’ sounded.

She did, too.

They drove, shared another spliff, made plans for when they got there, wondering if the pier only opened from a certain time (it did) and hoping the wind wasn’t too biting, because September wasn’t a prime time for going down to the seaside.

Dawn was guilty of her own eyes closing a little bit when a sudden yell from Kit caught her attention.

“Stop! Shit, Dawn, hit the brakes already!”

She slammed her foot down, car skidding to an awkward stop, and realised they were at the feet of a giant something.

The feet were hooves, as of a horse (like the kind that weren't allowed to race) or maybe even a moose. The legs were numerous and stood both far and tall above them – a biological woodland of legs of some mammoth beast that shouldn’t have been here, shouldn’t have been possible in this realm.

Dawn slowly moved the car back, unable to find the words, her breath short and sharp pants. Wildly, she considered somehow negotiating the forest of legs – anything to get out of here. This wasn’t possible. She looked for a nanosecond at the ends of the blunts in the ashtray but shook her head to herself – she trusted John, John wouldn’t give her laced weed that caused hallucinations. For what end, anyway?

Kit was watching, just staring at this Thing. A head came into view, neck craning to look down at them, although it was still some good many yards away. It had a flat face, with watery eyes that drooped in each corner, clearly watching these people in this tiny metal machine. The nostrils, however, took up most of its face, with no visible mouth. It looked like its nose was running – could beings that shouldn’t exist possibly be allergic to humans, to cars, to fumes?

Noises brought his attention back down the long legs to the feet. People in uniforms ran around the feet, tying large ropes around the Thing’s ankles. It snorted and lifted its hooves in protest, but still did nothing outrageous, despite the sudden influx of attention. Kit tried to see what uniforms they were

…an insignia Kit neither knew or cared to know…

but, with the size of the creature and Dawn’s quick reversal, the figures were blurry and he couldn’t see what they represented, what they were doing, what they knew of this Thing.

The sound of snorting brought both of them back to look at the face.

The Thing reared its head back, narrowed its eyes

…and then sneezed.

Missiles.

Dawn screamed and span the car around quickly, foot lead on the pedal, hand grasping the gear stick as if their lives depended on it – which they possibly did.

Somehow, they avoided the main blast area of the missiles. The car, a rust-bucket before the journey, was well-dented now and even had the dark marks of the explosion that had happened around them. The windows were chipped from tiny stones, and one tire was flat – but they were both alive.

Kit, gripping the seat, the spilled ashtray staining his jeans – Dawn, still gripping the steering wheel and gearstick, looking at the blast hole the missiles had caused.

Kit blinked, feeling his heart race in his chest, his throat dry.

“…Someone should get that thing a tissue.”

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